I was on a date with my nine-year-old, Emily. Over ice cream, I quizzed her with a number of questions. I came to, "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?"
"With you, Daddy."
Cue the "dad tears." For now, I'm better than Disneyworld and the beach.
Too often, we hear that the stated goal of Christianity is heaven. It's not.
The goal of Christianity is Christ. To be with him, in his presence, is the the ultimate. In him "the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things . . ." (Col. 1:19,20).
The Bible's pinnacle is a restored relationship with God, to live the "Eden life" once again. A chorus of Scripture is "I will be your God, and you will be my people" (Ex. 6:7, Lev. 26:12, Jer. 30:22). This is God's goal. This is why he labored through covenant and kings, patriarchs and prophesy. His ancient desire is to have us back again, he "our God," and we "his people." This is my "home," where I want to be. My goal is less a place and more a Person, my Creator, my God.
A good friend of mine said, "If Jesus were in hell, I'd want to be there." His point is not that Jesus is in hell, but that a heaven without Jesus is hell. Our hope is to be in heaven because that's where our Lord is.
I too often hear of a hollow heaven. Heaven as a utopia of pleasure and happiness, with God as an afterthought. Heaven is a place to see dead relatives. And Jesus is there too, a footnote in the equation. In this scheme, the Savior is merely a means to an end. He's the ticket to the party, but at the party he blends into the background.
Jesus begs to differ. Not only is he "the way," he himself is "the truth and the life" (John 14:6). He is not a means to an afterlife ending. He himself IS the life after death, "the resurrection and the life."
Emily taught me something. If I could go anywhere in heaven or on earth, my answer is, "With you, Jesus." He himself is the end of my faith and hope. I've never met such love or seen such affection. Give me Jesus, and I get heaven as well. When Jesus is the goal, it only gets better.