My Musings

Going to Heaven, Part II

Going to Heaven, Part II

The same professor who told me it is egocentric to want to go to heaven when you die (see Going to Heaven, Part I) proceeded to ask me where heaven is—not that he wanted to go, mind you. It’s not often a man asks for directions, so I opened up my “map” to help me reply. The thoughts below are adapted from my response.

Picturing Heaven

Sometimes, the Bible uses fixed terms for heaven (a place with “pillars”, “foundations”, “gates”, “windows” and “golden streets”). Jesus told his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” and called that place his “Father’s house” (John 14:2). He also described heaven as God’s “throne” (Matthew 5:34). The apostle John also envisioned heaven with a throne surrounded by twenty-four thrones, a crystal sea, angels, a scroll, harps, trumpets, a temple and much more. He also envisioned heaven and earth passing away, to be replaced with “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1); two different realms, one temporary and the other eternal.

Such tangible terms, however, do not mean heaven can be found on a map or captured in a camera. According to the apostle Paul; “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9). He used metaphors like a twinkling eye and a trumpet to explain heaven more as a transformation than a destination (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The Hebrew author wrote figuratively of a “greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.” (Hebrews 9:11).

If God exists beyond the realms of space and time, would he reside in a place bound by human sensibilities? Why look for God somewhere in the universe when, in reality, He fills it? Through Jeremiah, God asked, “‘Am I only a God nearby . . . and not a God far away?” (Jeremiah 23:23). “Do not I fill the heavens and the earth?” (vs. 24).

Heaven is Personal

Sometimes, Jesus used the word “heaven” as a synonym for God Himself. To swear by heaven, Jesus taught, is to swear by God (see Matthew 23:22). The prodigal son confessed to his father that he had “sinned against heaven…” (Luke 15:21). Such passages tend to personalize rather than localize heaven.

The kingdom of heaven cannot be captured with mere words, but if any word could do it, it would be the preposition in the following promise: “And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). In context, Paul was envisioning Jesus coming “like a thief in the night”, “from heaven”, with a “loud command” and a “trumpet call.” The faithful would be “caught up together” in the clouds to meet him. He would came not to stay on earth but to take us home to be “with” God. His purpose is personal.

Like God, heaven is both transcendent and accessible. It’s where God dwells and where the redeemed are destined to live forever. Asking where heaven is a bit like asking where God is. If being with God is not your desire, you may not like heaven.

Dual Citizenship

After painting a fiery picture of the apocalypse, the apostle Peter asked a practical question: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” (2 Peter 3:11). His answer: “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” Living a holy life on earth is not the agent of our eternal salvation but the product of our trust and hope in a merciful God, not in our navigational skills.

Paul saw saints as dual citizens of earth and heaven. For him, “to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21), but to live on in the body meant “fruitful labor” (vs. 22). He believed we were made to be “clothed with our heavenly dwelling,” and “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4-5). And this heavenly hope empowers us to live better lives here and now.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Christians care deeply about human events. But no matter what happens here, God is still on His throne in heaven where our real citizenship remains. We identify with C.S. Lewis who said, “Perhaps civilization will never be safe until we care for something else more than we care for it.” (God in the Dock, 1942). In other words, the less we care for God and heaven, the less safe we are on earth.


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C.S. Lewis


About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

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