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What is our end goal as United Methodists? Is it just heaven?

Photo by skeeze, courtesy of pixabay.com; graphic by Laurens Glass, United Methodist Communications
Photo by skeeze, courtesy of pixabay.com; graphic by Laurens Glass, United Methodist Communications

The goal of our journey of following Christ is a life transformed, forever with God as we live into God’s plans for us.

God’s ultimate hope for the world is the complete restoration and transformation of all humanity and creation to the image of Jesus Christ. As we are formed into the likeness of Jesus, we are called to participate in God’s transformation of the world. In Isaiah, Ephesians, and Revelation, we see that God is not waiting to make all things new. God is in action making all things new — right now.

The eternal life God offers begins here and now. By God’s saving grace we are assured of God’s forgiveness of our sins and enabled to overcome the power of sin. It's a healing of the separation we've experienced, from God and one another.  We become both whole and holy, now and for the future.

The Bible sometimes calls this "eternal life," but the Greek word translated “eternal” is not a reference to “an infinite period of time.”  Rather, it is similar to the word “eon” in English, meaning an age. The age referenced here is the age of the fullness of God’s kingdom. So eternal life is not about how long life lasts after our deaths, but rather about the nature of life itself, everything about it, when it is moving in harmony with God’s purposes—both here and now, AND in the “age to come,” when God’s kingdom finally comes in its fullness.

United Methodists, with many Christians, call the pardon we receive from God “justification” (from justus, being made right). God’s justifying grace breaks down the barrier of sin that separates us from God and one another. Our sins are forgiven and God begins the process of lining our lives up to God's original design for us. Our reconciliation with God makes possible our reconciliation with every neighbor and creation.

We call the process by which we are made whole and holy “sanctification” (from sanctus, holy). God’s sanctifying grace shapes us more and more into the likeness of Christ. As the Holy Spirit fills our lives with love for God and our neighbor, we begin to live differently.

So salvation means much more than just assurance of being forgiven of our sins and going to heaven when we die. Salvation involves experiencing healing, wholeness, and restoration that fill us with love for God and neighbor and frees us from the power of sin. Justification and sanctification together generate full salvation. Our goal as United Methodist Christians here and now is to help people experience full salvation in this life.

And our hope beyond this life is not "going to heaven." As Revelation 21:1-6 teaches, God makes God's dwelling among us on the new earth that accompanies God’s remaking of all things at Christ’s second coming, his final revealing.

So, for this life, our goal is to help people experience assurance of forgiveness and complete freedom from sin’s power.

And for the age to come, our goal is to help prepare as many people as we can to hear from the Judge of all, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter the joy of my Father” in the new earth. 

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This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.