“Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God…for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Col. 3:1-4
Do you see it?
Over and over the early Christians envisioned existence as the intersection of two worlds. For evangelical, American, western Christians, heaven is a place that is somewhere else, away from this world… somewhere you go when you die. But for the New Testament writers and the early church, heaven was a world that ran parallel with ours and at moments collided and intersected.
For the Apostle Paul for example, Jesus’ ascension into heaven didn’t mean that he left this world and went away, it meant that he was currently seated in heaven with God and at the same time fully present, fully alive, and fully active in this world here and now. So the return of Christ that has traditionally been thought of as Christ “coming back” to the world that he once left is misleading. Rather, he will appear once more, and we will see his glory in this world, here and now, where he has been invisibly present, ruling from heaven all along.
What we find in ancient writings of Christianity is a vision of the world in which heaven is extremely closeby.
Paul pleads with the Colossian Christians to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” He is asking them to focus their thoughts on heaven, not earth.
In earth there are wars, death, sickness, cancer, decay, anger, and addiction. In heaven Christ is seated at the right hand of God ruling all things.
On earth we are slaves to status, reputation, the pursuit of success, expectations placed upon us, and the judgments of fellow human beings. In heaven, we sit with Christ, justified by faith, cleansed by his blood, holy, blameless, and forgiven. In that realm that is so very close to this one, our lives are hidden with Christ in God.
On earth we are all doomed to the same destiny of death. We all came from the dust and to the dust we shall return. In heaven we have a great eternal hope that because we are hidden in Christ, death will never have the final victory.
And the whole of Christianity could perhaps be described as a community of heavenly citizens presently living on this colony called earth, fixing their hearts on eternity which isn’t a “someday” thing as if we could categorize it chronologically, but something that will enter into and intersect with time someday to renew all things. It is a community of people that awaits that great moment when eternity enters into time, where Jesus appears once again to set all the wrong things in this world right, and where his people appear with him in glory.
It is a heavenly community, with a heavenly calling, living presently in a heavenly colony…
We have to be fully rested in what has already happened to us in Christ. “You have been raised with Christ…”
We have to set our hearts and minds on the present reality in heaven. “Christ is seated at the right hand of God … Your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
When we are fully rested in what was, and what is, we will be filled with an untouchable hope of what will be. “When Christ, who is your life appears, you also will appear with him in glory.”
Do you see it?