Our saving aim is not heaven, but healed creation

In the biblical meaning of salvation, the great aim for followers of Christ is not going to heaven to be with Him (though in a sense, included), but following him for the healing of creation; and not a future creation— but the present one.  

For heaven signifies God’s throne, the sphere from which He reigns over all things. Through the Spirit we reign with Christ in the heavenly realms; but in the age to come, we shall reign with Him over present creation fully healed. That is the “heavenly reward” for which we now labour— we labour for the healing of creation, which begins with our healed humanity. Hence, the Scripture says, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God . . . in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8.19, 21).

On these themes, Roman Catholic theologian Kilian McDonnell, provides helpful clarity:

“The role of the Spirit is also cosmic. . . . In Romans 8:15-16 the prayer of the Spirit in us crying ‘Abba! Father’ is precisely a cry of children to their Father, lifting up the whole of the created order which shared in Adam’s ruin. Echoing Yahweh’s promise to Noah of the covenant to be made ‘between me and you and every living creature’ (Gen 9:12-13), Paul affirms solidarity of the nonhuman world with the human world in the redemption Christ has wrought. 

Therefore the cosmos groans as if in labour to share in our liberty and freedom as those who live the life of the Spirit, making us God’s children. . . .

Paul does not consider the body as something separate from the rest of creation. At the triumph of redeemed humanity, the cosmos will not stand aside, as though it were scaffolding and could now be discarded. Like the body itself, the universe, of which the body is a part, will be transformed, and in its own way glorified. 

The issue is cosmic redemption in solidarity with human redemption. In the Spirit there is no creation-less redemption. Salvation is for the whole of created order.”

Kilian McDonnell, The Other Hand of God: The Holy Spirit as the Universal Touch and Goal (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003), p. 211.

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