The shallow evangelism of the West puts an abundant emphasis on “Where will you go when you die?” One famous soul winning opener is, “When you die, what reason can you give for why God should let you into His heaven?” The whole emphasis seems to be on preparing people to die. It is as if we have an obsession with death.
Now aside from being morbid on the surface there seems to me to be a deeper problem. The “What will happen when you die?” approach is not scriptural. The concern of the Bible is not with death, or even where people go when they die. The emphasis of the New Testament is life.
Our Lord reminded his questioners that God was not the God of the dead but of the living (Mat.22:32; Mk.12:27; Luke 20:38). In Matthew 7 Jesus spoke of the narrow way that leads to life. In John 10:10 Jesus said that He came that men might have life…and that more abundant. The rich young ruler came to Christ asking about eternal life and Jesus answer was, if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. Now we know that Jesus brought up the commandments to bring the man to conviction but the point I am making is that, he was seeking eternal life and Christ talked to him about life.
I think the tendency to equate the term “eternal life” with “heaven when we die” is a mistake. Those who come into Christ come into eternal life now. They are transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. When Christ instructed Nicodemus about the Kingdom of God, He told him that he had to be born into it. He did not deal with him about where he would go when he died but about a new life before he died.
Though there will be a physical coming of Christ back to this earth in the future, and at that time His Kingdom will be expressed visibly upon the earth, yet all of us who are saved are now in His Kingdom. We have a new kind of life now and live according to new principles. Those principles are codified in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. The moral directions of the Old Testament, and the teachings of Christ and His apostles in the New Testament, are a harmonious revelation of life in God’s Kingdom. The Bible teaches redeemed people how to live as redeemed people now.
I am grateful for the strength and encouragement that thinking about heaven brings. But I am also thankful for the Presence of Christ in my life now, loving me and leading me, so that I can make my way through this world while I actually live in another one. When my time comes to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I plan to lock arms with my heavenly escorts and keep on living in Christ. But I don’t have to wait until I die to enjoy that. It started for me over 40 years ago.