Let me preface this discussion by affirming the fact that, in the truest sense, God doesn’t need us or anything period! God is the All-Self-Sustaining Being! But I raise this subject in light of a post I shared recently by Pastor Robert Houston (“My Problem with Angels”). In that post, Pastor Houston beautifully lays out the premise that humans do not “morph” or are not transformed or changed into angels when they die. I concur whole-heartedly with his findings and I too am distressed and disturbed by the various false theologies that are being promoted concerning death and dying. Now I can understand when it is coming from posts on Facebook and other social media outlets (I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen depictions on Facebook of people who have died hovering in the clouds with angel wings). But what is even more disturbing to me is some of the things I hear at funerals (Oh I’m sorry, they are not ‘funerals’ anymore, they are ‘home-going celebrations’ and ‘celebrations of life’) from preachers, pastors, and supposedly seasoned saints! I was almost floored recently when I attended a funeral service for an elderly mother of a church. The church clerk read a resolution from the church and all was going well until. . . .She read: “Whereas God, in His wise providence, decided to take out of this world a lovely flower that He needed for His Heavenly Garden. . .” I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be overly critical, but that’s just bad theology and church folks should know better!
First of all, by implication, the statement is saying that God killed or allowed the mother to die just to enhance or beautify Heaven! What a ridiculous idea! God is not in the business of taking people out of this world for Heaven’s benefit! Jesus said that he came that we might have life and that we might have that life more abundantly! Secondly, God really doesn’t need us in Heaven! In fact, we are actually of more use to God on earth than in Heaven! If God really wanted or needed us in Heaven, then it really was a waste of time and effort to create a physical world in the first place!
Now, I’m about to say something here that many orthodox and traditional theologians and church folks might gasp at: I really don’t think “Heaven” as we traditionally know of it, is God’s ultimate destination for us! Now, before you pick up rocks to stone me or call a ministerial counsel to revoke my preaching license, allow me a few moments to argue my point. If we are to take the Bible as the revelation of God, then we must deal with the reality that according to the Genesis account, death was not part of God’s original plan. According to Genesis, God created man as a combination of spirit and flesh with the intentions of man living in a physical state upon the earth forever! Death only came about as the result of sin. And death in the Bible is never extinction; it is always separation. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they immediately died spiritually (that is, they were separated from God) and they began to die physically. So my point is this; the only reason people die is because of sin, and sin and death were not part of God’s original intent!
Now, let’s fast-forward to Revelation 21, where the Apostle John talks about the culmination of the age. He said: “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.” (Rev 21:1-4 ESV) Notice in the text that John said he saw the holy city “coming down out of heaven.” Where is it coming down to? The new earth! Notice also that according to the voice John heard, the dwelling place of God will be ‘with man.’ “He will dwell with them.” He makes the same statement in other words with the very next breath: “God himself will be with them as their God.” He says it three times in very short order: God will be with them! We think the ultimate goal is for us to be with God, but according to the Bible, the ultimate goal is for God to be with us!
Also, let’s consider the purpose of the resurrection. According to the Bible, the purpose of the resurrection will be to reunite the spirit/soul with the body. Now, if it’s God intent for us to spend eternity in Heaven with Him in a spiritual state without a body, then the resurrection has no purpose! Why will we need a body? Because as God made us; our bodies are part of who we are! We are not complete without our bodies! Our loved ones who have died and who are in Heaven right now, even though they are in the presence of God, they are yet incomplete because they do not have their bodies! Remember 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18? Paul told them that God would bring with Jesus those who had died in Christ. And then he says that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Wait a minute! Aren’t those who died in Christ that God will bring with him when he comes and the dead in Christ who shall be raise first the same people? Then how can they be brought with Christ and be raise up out of the graves at the same time? Answer: Christ will bring their spirits with Him and will resurrect their bodies from the grave. Why? To reunite their spirits with their bodies! And why will they need their bodies? Because they will spend eternity, not in a strictly spiritual state as angels in Heaven, but rather they will spend eternity on the new earth in a redeemed spiritual-physical combination, which was God’s original intent for man in the first place!
I really didn’t mean for this post to be this long, but I really wanted to bring out the point that God wants us to be in good health and live as long as possible so that we might influence people to accept His Kingdom! Our task is not just to wait, but to work while we wait! Being saved is not just about getting ‘fire insurance’ or securing a ‘Heavenly retirement package,” it’s about influencing as many people as we can, while we can, for the Kingdom of God!
No! God doesn’t ‘need’ us in Heaven! God has no needs at all! God is self-sufficient and self-sustaining! But if there is something that we can do for God, then the Bible indicates our service is more profitable now, here on earth, than in Heaven! The old hymn writer had it right when he wrote: “To serve this present age, my calling to fulfill! Oh may it all, my power engage, to do my Master’s will!”