Heaven: I Have Questions…

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I am teaching a class on heaven right now and thought I would share a bit along the way. When I just sit and let my mind think about heaven there are a lot of thoughts that come to mind. Just like with any place I have never been, when I hear mention of it, I have more questions than I have answers. Obviously, scripture addresses some of our questions and others it is silent on. I have studied enough to have a decent answer on some of these questions but it is always worthy of investigation of the scripture rather than just assuming my conclusions are solid and based on a solid interpretation of what the Bible actually says. Here are a few of the questions that come to mind when I think about heaven:

Who ?– who will be there? Not who do I expect will be there but who does the Bible say will be there?

What? – What happens in heaven? What is the focus? What will we do?

When? – When will all of this happen? When will Jesus return?

Where? – Where is heaven? Where are the dead?

Why? – Why did God create the world in such a way that there is a distinction between heaven and earth? Why is there evil in the world? Which leads to…

How? –  How will God take care of the problems we face in this world? How does God expect us to live here and now and how does an understanding of heaven address that?

I am going to highlight what scripture has to say in response to these questions and how that helps us to have an accurate view of heaven and to help us live in light of that understanding.

What questions do you have about heaven?

0 Responses

  1. Lol…you should be able to answer those questions quickly…lol. Seriously, very good questions and very good method of discussing Heaven (big ‘H’). I saw a glimpse of its glory as it was manifested to me in a vision when I saw it in the eyes of was little son who went to be with the Father twenty-two minutes after his birth. But I saw this in a vision from God fifteen years before the little one was conceived. Amazing the wonderful work of God. I saw clear blue bright sky all around a beautiful alabaster appearing city. The brightness and clearness of its beauty was supernatural…nothing seen on earth. And I am not saying that’s what Heaven is like. I am saying that is how God manifested it to me…using things I could understand (natural) to reveal the unseen (supernatural). Fifteen years later, I gave birth to the beautiful little one who had a congenital heart defect and lived twenty-two minutes. Just as I had seen in the vision, when they brought him to me ..he had already passed away. His eyes were closed. Just as in the vision I saw him but he never saw me. At the time I saw his closed eyes, his eyes were already filled with the beauty of that city of God…Heaven. God was gracious in giving me the wonderful comfort of seeing the amazing realness of life after death. Later God spoke these words to me, ‘Carolyn, I didn’t let him die. I let him live!’ Wow.

  2. Who will be there? The dead who die in the Lord.

    What happens there? His servants serve Him.

    When will this happen? Only the Father knows.

    Where is heaven? Where Jesus is reigning. (Does this suggest that it is in our hearts????)

    Where are the dead? With the Lord.

    These answers, while I believe them to be true, are only introductory to answering the questions. I look forward to seeing many comments on this post!

    1. Are the dead really with the Lord?

      Act 2:29-35 KJV
      (29) Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
      (30) Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
      (31) He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
      (32) This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
      (33) Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
      (34) For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
      (35) Until I make thy foes thy footstool.

      Would the patriarch David count as one who died in the Lord? Even though he was a prophet that spoke of the resurrection of Christ, the apostle Peter seems to indicate that David is dead (in hell) thus not with the Lord. Paul does say that we shall be “with the Lord” when Christ returns, at his coming.

      1Th 2:19 KJV
      (19) For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

      1Th 4:16-17 KJV
      (16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
      (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

      If the dead were already with the Lord when they died, then it would seem strange that Paul did not comfort the Thessalonians to tell them such, and why would he only say that they would be in the presence of the Lord at his coming?

  3. Hi Matt,

    I have a lot of questions!

    I noticed on another post that you mentioned reading Dallas Willard lately – have you read Divine Conspiracy? He discusses the meaning of the words translated into “heaven” and “heavens” pretty early in the book (though it is not a short book =) ). What he discusses there, I had never heard from anyone else – he says that the prevalent popular understanding of heaven as only far away/ then (not now) is incomplete. He seems to be claiming that a more accurate understanding would be that heaven is also right here, right now, all around us, wherever God’s will is being done, (as well as something not yet fully realized). I think I understand him to be saying that we need to understand heaven within the tension of “already-and-not-yet,” but he sees popular Evangelical theology teaching heaven as only “not yet.”

    After reading Willard (and some NT Wright (Surprised by Hope) and some Brian McLaren), I have noticed more and more what they point out – how popular Evangelical theology views heaven and eschatology as a Great Escape/Evacuation, where Jesus comes back to get his people and take them away from this (bad) place and take them away to the good place. But Wright and Willard seem to think it is more accurately understood as Jesus coming back to earth (even the passage where those already asleep will rise to meet him in the air would have been understood then as a receiving party receiving Jesus and escorting him back down to earth), and this earth gets renewed/remade/redeemed.

    Wright also discusses how so many Evangelicals think that in heaven they’ll be like happy, floating, sin-free, body-less spirits, instead of having new Resurrection bodies on a New Heaven/New Earth.

    (Side Note: Another thing Wright highlights is how much focus there is on Friday on the Cross (with the accompanying heavy emphasis on Substitutionary Atonement theory), with very little emphasis on Sunday and Resurrection (and maybe Christus Victor Atonement theory?). I mean, if you go through any song book, it is *amazing* if you try and count up the number of Friday-only (Substitutionary Atonement) songs and then count up the number of Resurrection (Sunday) themed songs. It is staggeringly weighted towards Friday. This has really affected Alan and I and how we are teaching our children – we are trying to weight our teaching towards Resurrection and Christus Victor Atonement theory because we feel like there is so much Substitutionary Atonement theory all around them that it feels unbalanced.)

    One thing I have gotten from reading Wright and Willard is the idea that the Kingdom of God exists wherever God’s will is being done, and that therefore his Kingdom is currently, constantly breaking in, *right now!*, that light is piercing darkness *right now!* and that those places/times where God’s will is being done are already ushering in the Already Real Reality of God’s Kingdom, even if we’re surrounded at times by the Not Yet, and even if we don’t yet have our Resurrection bodies. I feel like this understanding is different from what I heard growing up. To me, to understand that every time I submit to God’s will I am actively participating with Him in ushering in His Kingdom is so much bigger and more exciting and more wonderful than just “do this/ don’t do this because the Bible says so.” Does that make sense? I don’t want to be misunderstood – I think we should be willing to obey just because the Bible says so. But why teach my children that way? Isn’t that limiting the full scope of why we do what we do?

    So I guess I’m trying to say that, in my understanding of Heaven, meditating on the idea that we are participating in the ushering-in of the Real Reality of God’s Kingdom now has moved beyond the theory and affected the way we are living.

    I hope all that makes sense – I’d love to hear your thoughts!
    –Rachel Howell

    1. Rachel,

      What a wonderful comment! In the end of Revelation, we see the Lamb’s Bride (i.e., the Church) coming down out of Heaven into the New Heavens and the New Earth. Do you note how the translators render that expression as “Heavens,” not “Heaven” as in Matthew 6 in the beginning of the Lord’s prayer where it is plural. It is “Our Father, who is in the Heavens….”

      Paul said he had been caught up into the third Heaven. The Jewish idea was of one heaven where the birds fly (i.e., the atmosphere around us), one heaven where the sun, moon, and stars are (i.e., the physical universe), and the third heaven is where God is. BUT what they did not always appreciate (nor do we) is that God is around us at all times! When Jesus went away, one of the promises He left us was “And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” At the end of the age, he will come again to claim His own – and God will dwell with us and we with Him, and we shall be His people!

      What could ever be boring about that?

  4. Jerry. I so appreciate your answers. That heaven is within our hearts and the dead are with God is as far as I personally try to enter the question. Not that we cannot discuss heaven, and Matt, your questions are meaty enough for searching hearts and minds; however, I do think that to try to get too detailed about our life with God beyond this one is to get ourselves all wrapped up in what I would call “Revelation talk”, the kind that keeps some believers excited, but says so little to our day to day existense.

    As one who has lost most of his immediate family, and, has lost a child, I see with my heart their presence with God, and I try not to muddy and pollute such a wonderful, divine mystery. What their passing has taught me is how to get up each morning thankful for the light God gives me, which, as strange as this may sound to some Christians, is just enough light to see the next step, and no further. Because you see, one step may take you from having someone to losing them; that is when you find out that survival is keeping your eyes open to the light for the next step God means you to take into someone else’s life.

  5. The Bible, I conclude, teaches degrees of reward in Heaven. However, since there will be no envy, or other sin, won’t I be just as satisfied with my “little cabin in the corner of Glory Land” as you will be with your mansion?

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