Do You Want to Go to Heaven When You Die?

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Do you want to go to heaven when you die?

That’s the urgent question many preachers ask us in church. In fact, it’s the climax of the show and how many churches measure their success. The assumption is that everyone wants to go to heaven when they die.

But what if that’s not true?

In fact, what if many Bible-reading, church-going, God-blessing Christians don’t want to go to heaven when they die? What if heaven will be hellish for a lot of us?

Stop and think: What is heaven?

According to the Bible, heaven will be the ultimate mashup party of the world’s diversity. Heaven will make the United Nations look homogenous by comparison.

Again and again, the Book of Revelation affirms that every kind of person will be there, united as one family in the self-sacrificing love of Jesus:

“persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9),

“[people] from every nation, tribe, people and language” (7:9),

“every nation, tribe, language and people” (14:6),

“all nations” (15:4).

In light of the Bible’s vision of heaven, I propose that we start rephrasing our famous question in church:

Do you want to go to the place where persons from every tribe and language and people and nation will live together for eternity?

Do you want to go to the place where every prejudice and stereotype and comfort zone and grudge and “but they” will be melted away for the rest of forever?

Or would that actually be hell for you?

Do you want to go to heaven when you die?

I’m convinced this is an urgently important question. It’s the question of our ultimate destiny and the final trajectory of our lives.

But as I look at the ethnocentric state of Christianity in Ethiopia, America, and elsewhere, I’m convinced this is a question we need to ask ourselves before we ask anyone else.

How can we Christians say that we want to go to heaven when our churches are fiercely divided, alienated, or even at war with one another – precisely over “tribe and language and people and nation”?

For many of us, heaven is what we’re fighting against and doing our best to prevent. We rewrite Jesus’s prayer with our attitudes, behaviors, and cultures: “Your kingdom stay away, your will be aborted, on earth if it is like heaven.” Heaven is the ethnocentrist’s hell.

When we look to heaven, “Love your neighbor as yourself” isn’t a nice idea or a secular morality. It’s God’s greatest commandment and ultimate dream. It’s the revolutionary seed of eternity that grows into a community of “every nation, tribe, language and people” – united forever in self-sacrificing love for others.

Neighbor-love is the way to heaven and the antidote to hell on earth. As Jesus said, “Do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28).

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