“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” -Philippians 3:18-21
“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” -Hebrews 13:14
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” -Hebrews 11:13-16
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” -John 15:18-1
“We are not going somewhere else at the end of time, because this world is our home. And our home is good. One of the most tragic things ever to happen to the gospel was the emergence of the message that Jesus takes us somewhere else if we believe in him.” -Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis p.171
One of the mega-themes that you will observe if you read Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis is this pervasive idea that the Christian should not be awaiting a life in heaven, but instead they should embrace that heaven is coming here and is something we can bring ourselves. At one point he says, “Jesus’ desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth (p.148).” Again, in another place, “As we live this life , in harmony with God’s intentions for us, the life of heaven becomes more and more present in our lives. Heaven comes to earth (p.147).” In Bell’s theology, the goal of a Christian’s life is to bring heaven instead of hell to earth. This is nice, and comforting, and uplifting, … and completely unbiblical!
In other places we see Bell say things like “this world is our home.” Yet, Christ himself says to the disciples, and then forevermore to us, “you are not of the world”! So, only one person can be right, Bell or Jesus? Hmuh… I pick Jesus.
The problem with this view of us bringing heaven to earth is not that heaven is not coming to earth, and this is really the point where Bell and his ilk are so smarmy. In Revelation 21:1-3, the Apostle John records for us what will happen after the final judgment:
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.”
So, in the end there will be a new Jerusalem which will descend from heaven, to this terrestrial sphere, and in that city God will dwell with us! This is the fulfillment of Hebrews 11:13-16 above which says “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Bell knows this. He knows, and even cites in his book, that the final revelation is of the new Jerusalem coming to earth. However, he then uses this acknowledgment of the truth to advance his nice warm, fuzzy lies.
Yes, the new Jerusalem is coming. And how shall it come? According to Velvet Elvis, it shall come because Jesus’ followers “live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth.” Maybe you want to object that this is just a euphemism . However, if you want to make that objection I challenge you to actually read the book and see if Bell is just being cute when he says this. I am fairly convinced that in Bell’s book he is advancing the claim that good living is the driving force which brings heaven (or the new Jerusalem) to earth.
But, contrast that with Revelation 19 and 20 which depict a great battle where Satan is chained and then defeated forever, and the Great Judgment where all are ultimately judged. All of this happens BEFORE the new Jerusalem comes down to us. And yes, I understand that Revelation is a hairy book, full of symbolism, but there is not an interpretation in existence that doesn’t recognize Jesus as the Rider on the White Horse who defeats Satan or that thinks the final judgment has already come. Therefore, if none of this has happened yet, and if the old heaven and old earth pass away following this, then wouldn’t it be a waste for us to “bring heaven to earth” now when God is just going to throw it in the garbage at the end of time?
Honestly, this can get very speculative and unwieldy real fast, but the real issue is this: are we supposed to embrace this world because it is “our home” or should we accept the fact that we are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) on this earth and we are awaiting our return to where our true citizenship is, that being heaven? I believe Bell wants us to embrace this world because he denies that it is a wicked and corrupt world, and because he thinks that we are any less wicked and corrupt to be able to change it. Bell loves this world and creation, not unlike the fools in Romans 1:22-23.
However, if we truly respond to the Holy Spirit’s call on our lives, then we must acknowledge that we have been called out of this world, acknowledge that we have become “strangers and exiles” on the earth, acknowledge that on this earth there is “no lasting city”, and trust that God has prepared for us a city where he will dwell with us for eternity without end! That is our home!