“Why should I worry about work and impacting the culture around me when it’s all going to burn up anyway?” asked a young Christian I spoke to recently. “I am just waiting to go to heaven,” he added.
Unfortunately, this theological view is what far too many Christians believe. But is it what the Bible teaches?
It’s not, and 1,900 years of church history prove it.
The four-chapter gospel reminds us of the fullness of God’s redemptive story. Yet over the last 100 years the church has truncated the four chapters of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration to just two chapters, Fall and Redemption.
As a result, we don’t know what we were created to do and where we are going to end up in the end. If you lose Restoration, you end up with statements like the one above. You lose a biblical understanding of what theologians call eschatology, the study of the end of this age.
A full understanding of Restoration will keep us from seeing our time on earth as just waiting around at a bus stop to get to heaven. Instead, we must remember the amazing vision given to the apostle John in Revelation:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:1-5a)
By God’s grace, our lives today and the work we do can point people to this future reality when all creation will be restored and God himself will dwell with us.
One Student’s Story
This point was not lost on a student at Ball State University. One campus ministry there recently reported to us that their student leaders were reading my booklet, All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel. During this past semester, they were learning about theology as a core value and shared that the four-chapter gospel had been a helpful foundation for them.
In February one of their student leaders, a theater major named Ingrid, made the comment to a freshman theater major, “I can’t wait for the new heavens and new earth.”
The younger student asked her what she meant.
Ingrid then began to tell her about her new understanding of God’s creation and the way things were meant to be. She went on to explain sin and the fall through her new lens of the four-chapter gospel.
The freshman had grown up in church but had never understood the good news in this way. At the end of the conversation, the freshman prayed with Ingrid and began her journey of personally following Jesus.
When Ingrid was asked about it, she said: “I just shared with her what I have been learning from the book.”
This story was such an encouragement to us at IFWE. We have a real heart for young people and have worked hard to reach college and university students. among other groups, with our materials. When I wrote this booklet, I had no idea the various ways God would use it to not only help teach Christians but also draw others into his kingdom!
Heaven Is Not Our Long-Term Home
Many Christians today have lost this larger vision told by the Bible. Despite the greatness of the biblical narrative, in the past 150 years, the church in the Western world has looked at the Bible from the limited perspective of two chapters—Fall and Redemption. Pastor and author Tim Keller points out the importance of telling the whole story:
Some conservative Christians think of the story of salvation as the fall, redemption, heaven. In this narrative, the purpose of redemption is escape from this world; only saved people have anything of value, while unbelieving people in the world are seen as blind and bad. If, however, the story of salvation is creation, fall, redemption, restoration, then things look different…the purpose of redemption is not to escape the world but to renew it…It is about the coming of God’s kingdom to renew all things.
While sin and salvation are undeniable realities, they are not the complete gospel. This abridged version excludes God’s original plan for his creation, described in the first chapters of Genesis and characterized by shalom—universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight. It also leaves out God’s future restoration of all things at the end of the age, also characterized by shalom.
Heaven is not our ultimate destination. God has a plan to restore and redeem all things, and that is why our work today matters.
Editor’s note: Read more about the four-chapter gospel in All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel.
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