During our troubling times, we have another resurgence of a departure for heaven. Among Evangelical Christians it shall be similar to the ascension of Jesus. It is the belief that humans in some bodily form can ascend to heaven. Many Christians in North America place their trust in Paul who predicted the removal of Jesus’ followers from the earth before the hour of chaos strikes the world (I Thes.4: 13-18). Paul, himself, did not see that day neither did we during the devastation in World War II. According to Jesus, his followers shall face worse times than we did before He shall intervene (Mt.24). With the future in doubt and evil on the rise, it is not surprising that there is renewed interest in the ascension.
The disappearance of men like Enoch and Elijah led their followers to belief that God took them to heaven. Dreams and visions confirmed their presumptions, as in the case of Peter, James and John seeing Jesus in the presence of Moses and Elijah (Mt.17: 3). On the contrary, Job believed that he would see God without the flesh (Job 19: 26). The venerable Samuel, second to Moses, rested in a grave on earth (I Sam.28: 11-15). The first and greatest Christian theologian Paul argued for a transformation of the human body (I Cor.15). Jesus concurred by telling Mary Magdalene not to touch him for He had not yet ascended to the Father (Jn.20: 17). Jesus promised that He would prepare a place for those that remained faithful to him (Jn.14: 1-4). He also believed that there were two places: one for the good and one for the bad (Lk.16: 19-31).
Where do we come in? Will American Christians be allowed to ride the clouds to heaven? Will our memorializing of our dead qualify them? What did John see in his vision of heaven? “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained”(Rev.6: 9). If that is a prerequisite, then let us plead with Jesus to let us live on the outskirts of his heavenly world; for, none of us, or our predecessors in this part of the world, have suffered or died for Christ. With regard to our children and grandchildren, there are signs that Antichrist may seduce this land of freedom and make our loved ones pay with their lives. In fact, Revelation speaks of such a time, “Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed” (Rev.6: 11).
Those of us that lean on faith in Christ and have not been severely tested, may be here for the purpose of strengthen those that come after us and will face what we never faced? Instead of dreaming about a journey into the sky and some heavenly reward, let us think about what Jesus said regarding our responsibility in this world? “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Lk.16: 11). “True riches” for Jesus were treasures in heaven (Mt.6: 20). What we want in heaven, we must earn on earth (Mt.25: 14-30). We are mistaken if we think we can prepare our soul for eternity without taking care of our body, our environment and our country. God demands that man take care of his share in the world before he heads back to the eternal abode (Gen.1: 26-31). Jesus even urged his followers to make friends with Mammon so that their lives can be more tolerable (Lk.16: 9). He did not mean that we become bed-follows, but that we work together and do not let this country be taken over by forces that shall endanger the lives of our offspring. How can we let our light shine or our voices be heard, if we even neglect to vote (Mt.5: 14-16; Ro.10: 14-15)? I am firmly convinced that we shall be held accountable in heaven for what we have done on earth (Mt.25: 34-40).