Heaven is not the Christian Hope

M Sashi Jamir
Associate Professor,
Oriental Theological Seminary 
Bade Dimapur
 
What is the belief of Christians? This question though basic is the most crucial questioning that every Christian believer should contemplate today in our context. Christians believe in Jesus Christ and confess that through his death and resurrection we are saved from our sins. But have we ever consciously asked the questions: who actually is Christ? How does his death and resurrection save us? What are our sins? What does it mean to be saved?
 
 
1. Today there are many Christians merely because our parents and grand parents are Christians. The way we understand Christian belief too seems to be like our fore fathers’ pre-Christian spirituality. Our fore fathers worshipped numerous spirits and in most cases to placateevil powers. Today we pray asking God to protect us, to take away our fears but after our prayers we live our lives worse than our fore fathers. In Christian belief, faith and work go hand in glove. If one says,“I believe in Christ,” but do not live for Christ then he/she is not a Christian.There is no such thing as“nominal” Christian. If you are a Christian you should live as a Christian period.
 
 
We also have lots of prayer centers. Having prayer centers is not a problem but the approach to it is. Many think that going to prayer centers is a remedy for anything. However, just as prayer is essential for Christians, prayer without having any relationship with Christ is superstitious. It amounts to some one going to a fortune-teller. In fact if we have faith in Christ and his death and resurrection we have been already made his priest – a priest who can freely approach him without any intermediary. 
 
 
Again many people think that becoming a Christian is to slide into heaven leaving aside this gloomy and ruthless world. But Christian hope is not heaven. We are saved by Christ not to go to heaven but to be his agent to bring transformation to his created yet fallen world.
 
 
Because of such shaky belief in Christ today I think our land is suffering from corruption in all public sectors and yet our churches are filled with believers. What contradiction!We talked about election as the cancer of our society but if one thinks critically our corrupt electoral process is merely a symptom. The real cancer is our misplaced and misunderstood belief in Christ. Little wonder there are many people today in our context itself who have become cold with Christianity, who do not come to church and who mock at Christians because of such contradiction.
 
 
2. Today the world we live in is a fast changing world. The whole world is connected through the advancement of IT and Internet system. Through this advancement we are bombarded with news, and propagandas. One needs to be cautious about news such as Bible needs rewriting, Jesus was married when alive, or that Jesus came to India to escape his death. Along with this, our world – as a globalized world – operates as market and we as consumers.  All the latest gadgets, new fashion, eatery places and cars are booming everyday in our place. We cannot help but admire them, want them, and even purchase them. But the crucial point is that our materialistic world cannot give true happiness. Perhaps, it will grant us superficial happiness that might last for some few months before another new desire crops up. It is only in our true faith in Christ that will enable us to face this fast and materialistic world with a greater sense of meaning. This implies how important it is to have a correct and organic understanding of our belief in Christ. 
 
 
3. In this sort of world people tend to think that we are living in our human history nurtured by our intelligence, muscles and speeches. However, and how hard it might seem to grasp, we are in reality living in God’s history and plan. 1 Corinthians 15: 3 claims that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture.” For Paul and even Jesus, Scripture was the Old Testament. Thus, in order, to understand Christ’s death and resurrection we need to begin from the book of Genesis. In the beginning God created heaven and earth. He created humans too and put them in the Garden of Eden. God’s plan was to socialize with us in good relationship. But human disobeyed and so God chased them out of the Garden. Since then God has only one intention: that is, he wants to redeem us and through our redemption the world, which he created and said,“it is good.”
 
 
Thus God called out Abraham and later his descendants, Israel to whom He provided the Promised Land. He made covenant with Israel that he might renew his creation as it was in the Garden. However, Israel could not respond to God’s invitation. Thus, just as Adam and Eve were chased out of the Garden so also Israel was ditched out of the Promised Land. 
 
 
But the Israelites’ prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and others prophesied that a savior is coming who will meet God’s requirements, which the Israelite could not. This savior will redeem us and through us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, redeemed the world. Thus, Jesus in his death and resurrection redeemed us and more so liberated us from the clutches of the evil power. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection God initiated his project of renewing the world and us.
 
 
God’s intention to renew the world and us is to reunite heaven and earth as it was in the Garden of Eden where divine and human intersected. Revelation 21: 1-4 clearly states that at the end time God will unite the new heaven and the new earth. Here is an important point: when one accepts Jesus Christ he/she becomesan agent of transforming this world. We do not accept Christ to simply go to heaven as if heaven were somewhere up in the air and that God did not create this world. To be a Christian means to participate in God’s project, which is to renew this world through us. 
 
 
Some might asked why God wants us to participate in the renewing act of the world. Isn’t he God? Yes, God can do anything but he wants us, he wants to partner and collaborate with us. That is his DNA and that is why we have our free will. Of course, it is not by our own power that we can transform the world but only by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.
 
 
4. Thus to be a Christian means to be responsible as Christ’s ambassador. No matter what and who we are: doctor, peon, driver, lawyer, police, students, beautician, musician, entrepreneur, engineer etc., we are to carry the mandate of renewing this world through our professions. It is ironical to hear from a Naga officer, who after coming late to his office and sitting for half an hour, saying,“I need to leave the office now as there are some church-works to attend.” The officer is supposed to do his job and carry out God’s mandate through his office by diligently utilizing the power and resources endowed by his office. But many think that God’s work is done only by and through the church. If every public servant gives priority to his or her own job realizing that they are participating in God’s renewing project of humanity and the world then, surely a transformation will happen in our land. This is the whole belief system of Christianity. 

 

If we want to see our land being transformed then it is critical to have a correct understanding of Christianity. Further we should guard ourselves from our fast changing world, which has in it to distract us. Then one day in God’s own good time he will bring the new heaven and the new earth together. That will be a time when there will be no sadness, violence or corruption. Instead peace, love and joy will flourish in and through us. Our bodies will be transformed like that of the resurrected Christ and we will be surprisedto see the kind of image we were actually supposed to be. Let us look forward to that day and be a true and responsible Christian.