For many people, entire theological systems are built around us getting out of here. And so many presentations of the gospel are, “Do you wanna know how you can get outta here?” And yet the Scripture is the story not of people going up, the Bible is the story of God coming down. God wants to come down and he wants to take up residence in the midst of his people.
See, we have whole theological systems built around scaring the hell out of people so they won’t be left behind.
Alright…nobody got out a stake and set it on fire…I’ll keep going.
Be honest. Let’s be honest. Many presentations of the gospel are, “Hey, do you wanna know how to get outta here?” And the center of Jesus’ teachings is bringing God here.
Maybe you could say it this way (and this is not like either/or): Is the question, “How do I get into heaven” or “How do I get heaven here?” See, you have whole theological systems that are built on, “Some glad morning when this life is o’r, I’ll fly away.” Now what happens – and if that’s your favorite hymn, I’m sorry…kind of – what happens? And obviously we believe that when we die we go into God’s presence in heaven, this is obviously not some sort of denial of heaven, but nevertheless, if your theology is getting out of here, what subtly happens over the years?
And we need to just be brutally frank about this. What happens over time is this life becomes irrelevant, correct? If our message is “Hey, do you want to join us in getting out of here?” then what happens subtly over time is our message is really about some other places and we really have less & less to say about life now. And we have less & less the kind of eyes to see a whole world right here within this one, right here, right now.
And so we have to understand that the Bible is the story of a God who wants to come down and wants to inhabit this place, and take up residence in the midst of his people.
–Rob Bell, We’re Over Here teaching at Willow Creek, November 14, 2002