I suspect that most of us grew up talking about dying and going to heaven. Anyone grow up with the hymn, "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be"? If I remember correctly, that's even how Wesley talked about it.
You may have noticed that I try not to talk about "going to heaven" in my language. I talk about "getting into the kingdom." That's because the more historical view of Christianity--and the more prevalent view of the New Testament--is that eternity will be on a renewed earth. N. T. Wright has hammered this point, maybe over-hammered it, in his book Surprised by Hope.
1. This is the dominant New Testament view. Matthew 8:11 and its parallels clearly picture the banquet at the commencement of eternity as being on earth. Romans 8:20-21 talks about the restoration of the creation to its original, uncorrupted form. Revelation 21:2 speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem coming down to earth. So it is more biblical to speak of eternity on a renewed earth than going off to heaven forever.
2. The idea that we die and go to heaven forever became dominant, apparently, in the Enlightenment of the 1700s. It was thus a product of a trajectory away from believing that God would transform our bodies. It is a reflection of the faith crisis of that age, of the rise of the idea of a new view of the soul. It was movement away from traditional faith. It was a view that fit the scientific age more comfortably.
Even today, you find some Christians who think the empty tomb a trivial point, perhaps even irrelevant. They confuse resurrection with afterlife. "So you go to heaven when you die," they might say. "Who cares what happens to your body?" This is a new development in history from the skepticism of the 1700s.
3. Now, I'm not wanting to get too down on "go to heaven" talk. There is a certain kind of condescending tone the Wrights and such can get on this topic. "Oh, you don't know that the kingdom will come to the earth." They dismiss what I believe is evidence for the opposite view in John and Hebrews. And things get really symbolic when you start talking about eternity, so I think we have to be a little tentative about these sorts of things, including the precise nature of hell.
My point here is, if you've never heard of this sort of discussion, to let you in it so some arrogant know-it-all doesn't call you out as stupid or heretical because "you didn't know." But they probably do have the weight more on their side. Both the more historic Christian position and the predominant view of the New Testament is that eternity will be down here on a renewed earth.
I thought you'd like to know, if you hadn't heard :-)