Heaven a Place or Person?
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
When it comes to thinking about "heaven" people pose all kinds of questions, What will I be like in heaven? What kind of body will I have? (Physical, spiritual, visible, invisible?) Will I be recognizable? (In form? in personality?) Will I be able to recognize those I love? (My wife? husband? children?) What will I be doing in heaven? ("I don't like playing the harp, you know!") Will heaven be boring to me? Will all of my desires be fulfilled in heaven? Will I be able to progress, develop or grow in heaven? Will I have be able to recall my time spent on earth in heaven? What will my place of habitation be like? How big will my "mansion" be? Will I have more than someone else? Will someone else have more than me? So many questions regarding heaven. It is obviously important, how can the Christian sort out all this information regarding heaven.
There is a lot of misinformation that has confused the Christian. It seems that many Christians have viewed heaven as the ultimate objective of the Christian life. People are encouraged to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior that they might go to heaven as if the main purpose of knowing Jesus is to live with Him in heaven. Was this Jesus ultimate purpose in going to the cross? To get us out of hell and into heaven? This is a futurist view and is very unfortunate and a skewed perspective.
Scripture does not support this perspective of – accept Jesus and then go to heaven. The bible is clear, it is Christ plus nothing! The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus Christ. God has nothing more to give than His only begotten Son, Jesus. Jesus did not die on a cross and raise from the dead simple to get you into heaven. Heaven is not an added benefit.
Jesus’ purpose is clear, “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly” (John 10:10.
We have often had a distorted understanding of God’s purpose – for relationship is at the heart of the matter. Understanding “who we are,” our spiritual identity is vitally important. There are two opposing spiritual sources vying for your attention and from which we are spiritually united and derive character (God or Satan), and these two spirit-sources are linked to two contrasting destinies, heaven, and hell. Heaven is the eternal presence of God (cf. Acts 17:24; II Cor. 5:1). Hell is the extended presence of evil “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). Both destinies are the permanence and extension of the spiritual connection a person has freely accepted. Too often people’s perception of heaven has been rather “temporal and fleshly. Rather than viewing heaven as a destination to arrive at, see it as a relational place of intimacy. Jesus said in John 14:3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
Was Jesus referring to a place in heaven or a relational place of intimacy with Him? Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you,” which indicates that the mystery of the gospel is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” When you think of heaven, focus on the personal presence of Jesus Christ in you as a Christian not a future tense place to arrive.
Religion has referred to heaven and hell in relationship to blessing or cursing, not an ongoing relational connection. Religion has identified heaven and hell as places of reward and punishment for human performance and behavior, but they are better viewed as the continuation of our chosen spiritual connection and union. It is not that we are expecting anything better or worse than what we already have and are familiar with in this present life.
The primary change at physical death will be the environment in which our spiritual relationship and activity happens. After physical death we will be solely in a spiritual realm, not physical or temporal. Since spirit-beings are trans-locative (beyond location or place) and trans-temporal (beyond limited by time). The extension of heaven and hell is beyond being described by “place or time.”
When we think of heaven and hell, don’t think of it as choosing a travel destination As to whether you want to go to Paris or Puerto Rico. Rather think of it as a matter of a choice between the spiritual beings who are sources of character and energy in your life. The choice is between the “spirit that works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2) Satan – Or the Spirit of the living Lord Jesus (Rom. 8:9) who offers to give His eternal life to you (Jn. 3:16; 10:10), having already taken our deserved death for sin. These are spiritual destinies of present realities. Spiritual destinies NOT destinations. To be clear Heaven is nothing more than the presence of Jesus. Heaven is the extension, eternity, and continuum of the Christ-life that we receive in the new birth, though admittedly without the hindrances of the present world.
And yet, it would be true to state that – Heaven is both now and then! Heaven is not an add-on at end of a Christians life. Heaven is not just a future reality but a present reality for the Christian. Christians are “partakes of the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1) and “have tasted of the heavenly gift” (Heb. 6:7).
The Understanding of the permanence and timelessness of spiritual identification with either God or Satan should serve to remove some of the misconceptions and materialistic beliefs that some Christians have concerning the future heavenly state. To be completely honest selfishness and self-concerns have tainted and polluted many Christians' understandings of the heavenly reality.
Many seem to think that they are going to get something more, in addition to what they already have spiritually, when they get to heaven. Although Paul does indicate that "to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21), this does not imply that we will receive something more than we already have in Jesus Christ. To suggest that more is to be "gained" is to imply that what we have received in Jesus Christ is limited or insufficient. God forbid! "All things belong to us in Christ, things present or things to come" (I Cor. 3:21-23). "God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). We "have been made complete" in Christ (Col. 2:10). The "gain" that Paul refers to is not something in addition to Jesus' life but is the cutting off a temporal bodily form which replaces the hindrances of fleshliness, with the unencumbered glorified body, and the "gain" of a contextual environment to express Christ's life and character without hostility or restriction, which is heaven “then.”
The "treasures in heaven" are all inherent in the spiritual "treasure" of Christ's life that now indwells our "earthen vessels" (II Cor. 4:7). The "crown" is the victory wreath, the "crown of life" (Rev. 2:10), indicating our participation as "overcomers" in the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The "mansions" are but spiritual "dwelling places" (John 14:2) in the presence of God. "Rewards in heaven" are not additional acquisitions, for there is nothing more than "the reward of the inheritance" (Col. 3:24) of the eternal life of Jesus Christ (cf. Heb. 11:26).
My question is, "If you do not appreciate and enjoy the life that you have in Jesus Christ right now, what makes you think you will appreciate and enjoy the continuum of that same spiritual and eternal life in Jesus Christ throughout the eternal heavenly existence?" It is a valid question that needs to be answered by each of us.
Some would suggest that it’s too hard now to grow and develop into the Christian they want to be, and they are comforted by the fact that “once they get to heaven,” then they will make the progress they longed for but could not reach. Spiritual progress is now NOT then!
Progress in the development of appreciation and expression of Christ's life must take place in our present Christian lives, for there is no Biblical basis for expecting further spiritual progression beyond this life. Why, you ask? Because… Heaven is the perfect presence of the life of God in Jesus Christ, and that which is perfect allows for no progress or development in perfection. Progression is alien to the concept of heaven. Progress is only required when things are imperfect and is the unique quest of man after the fall. "Now is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2), for progression and growth in spiritual awareness and appreciation of the life of Jesus. The extent of our capability for appreciation and expression of the divine life is developed in the present. As we are "being saved" (I Cor. 1:18), being "filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), and "growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18), we are developing such appreciation.
Heaven might be referred to as the “already” and the “not yet” of the heavenly presence of Jesus, which indicates that heaven is both “now” and “in the future.” We have a future expectation and anticipation of the unhindered eternal heavenly presence and intimacy with Jesus that provides hope for the heart, that yet remains. Because the focus of heaven is both now and forever enjoy the heavenly presence of Jesus Christ NOW.
Our present availability to the life of Jesus Christ allows for a greater capability of appreciation, and such is the "greater reward" of one Christian over another. All competitive and comparative elements will be eliminated, though, and there will be no envy or dissatisfaction. All Christians will see Jesus (I Cor. 13:12), glorify God, and enjoy Him forever. Everyone will be completely satisfied with the fullness of joy they have in Jesus Christ, but some will have developed a greater capacity to enjoy and appreciate the eternal life of Jesus, while no one else will know or care. All will be filled full to the extent that they are capable to glorify God forever. Such is Life As God Intended both Now and Then!