Better Than Heaven

“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalms 90:10 KJV).

She asked us to sing “I’ll Fly Away,” and we were glad to oblige. We had come to the nursing home to bring cheer to the residents during our “campaign” in the community, and the best way we knew to do that was to sing hymns with those interested in getting together to hear us. As we sang, I watched her. She didn’t sing along, but she closed her eyes and listened intently. Clearly she was reminding herself…or perhaps convincing herself…that better times were ahead. The years of her life were behind her, and here she was, trapped in a failing body in a depressing place full of other people waiting for death. Is there any place more depressing than a nursing home?

That was almost a decade ago, and I’m reasonably certain that the elderly lady I’m remembering now has already reached that distant shore. And yet, that’s not our destination.

An early competitor with Christianity was gnosticism. I believe that even in the New Testament we can find traces of a proto-gnosticism perturbing the church. One of the primary aspects of Gnostic belief, in common with many ancient religions that competed with Christianity, is that matter is evil, spirit is good, and we must escape these fleshly prisons.* Without too many people realizing it, gnostic ideas have infiltrated western Christianity. One could point to Dan Brown’s book or the ancient but dying sect of Mandaeism as contemporary examples of Gnosticism, but I believe that in many cases we need look no further than the pulpit of virtually any evangelical church. No one wants to be “Left Behind” in this awful, material world. Everyone seems hungry for it to be destroyed so that true believers can enjoy disembodied bliss in the presence of God.

Some glad morning when this life is o’er,
I’ll fly away.

To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away.

I’ll fly away, O Glory, I’ll fly away.

When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye,
I’ll fly away.

Gnosticism is not God’s truth and does not reflect the living God’s plan for His creation. In His goodness and love He created the heavens and earth, in the death and resurrection God was declared right and victor and the stage is now set for the fulfillment of His plan: the Lord God will be all in all.

When this life is over, I trust that I’ll “fly away” to Jesus, but my real hope in the Gospel is for the glorious promise of new heavens and new earth. I’ll do without the gnosticism, thank you.

“So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:42 NRSV).

*Another obvious point of Gnosticism is the idea that secret knowledge would help the believer find release from the evil of this material world, a concept shared with the mystery religions of antiquity, but that’s a topic for another day.

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