And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. (John 3:13)
The King James Version of the Bible has 776 occurrences of the word “heaven.”
None of those 776 verses that include the word “heaven” indicate that we fly away beyond the clouds to a “spirity” disembodied, or angel-bodied eternity. Nor do they mention a city beyond the sky with golden streets, and mansions, and guarded by Peter at the pearly gates.
IF the biblical meta-narrative is fundamentally about THAT particular future – references to that concept are largely hidden, or absent from scripture. Again, if THAT future is what Jesus came to secure one would think that the scripture would be more explicit. IF THAT is what its all about why doesn’t the bible just come right out and say it – clearly, no questions?
Could it be that the bible doesn’t explicitly portray the commonly held understanding of heaven because the common understanding is misunderstanding?
Rather than being the place to go when I die, I now understand the biblical meta-narrative to portray heaven as the seat of the government of the Kingdom of God…
– that God’s will is to annex the earth for His government.
– that He made man in His own image, and gave him dominion over the earth (first Adam) (Genesis 1)
– that the government will be on his shoulder (last Adam) (Isaiah 9:6)
– that when Jesus said “take my yoke upon you” He was inviting us to “shoulder” the heavenly form of government in the earth. (Matthew 11:29)
– that its why Jesus taught us to pray that the Kingdom would come on earth, as it is in heaven – and then He modeled the heavenly form of government ON EARTH as an example to us.
– that its why Jesus told us to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”
– that the sovereignty, power, and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His Kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey Him. (Daniel 7:27)
– that there is real work to do as we govern our domains in alignment with the government, culture, and economy of heaven – until we fall asleep.
(While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed…(then) he fell asleep.) (Acts 7:59-60)
We work as ambassadors of Christ until we fall asleep – not “completely” dead – asleep.
– He is not the God of the dead, but the living. (Mark 12:27)
– But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corithinians 15:20)
– This is why it is said:”Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)
– Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – (1 Corinthians 15:51)
We are raised from death – in coherence with the cultural norm established by Jesus – to complete the work of annexing the earth for the Kingdom of God.
– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)
– For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
– The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:”The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
– And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 21:1-7)
– if we endure we will also reign with him. (2 Timothy 2:12)
– that we have been made a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and we will reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:10)
Will you reign on the earth?
What if God invited you to participate in His plans to annex the earth for His government?
What if God asked you stop focusing on “getting” to heaven, and instead asked you to focus on “bringing” (the government of) heaven – to earth?
What if part of His strategy was to annex your business for His Kingdom?
What if God asked you to govern your business according to the heavenly form of government?
What if God asked you to be an ambassador for His government, and asked you to make your business the embassy?
How would the culture of your business need to change to align with the culture of heaven?
Well written…title is great.
Mitch, the title got my attention; the content really got me thinking..hard. Great read.
Thanks, Rico, for reading and commenting.
I agree with the biblical notion that we will reside eternally in our resurrected bodies in governance over the earth under the authority of and in partnership as glorified bride with Christ with the descended New Jerusalem as our permanent home. I know…a lot in one sentence. But I’m curious to know if you believe our disembodied spirits will simply rest until the resurrection or are they with Jesus in paradise?
Landon – Thanks for reading and commenting. You win the award for summarizing – well done. The question you pose is one that many people would like an answer to. To be sure, I don’t have the answer. Further, I’m not sure that knowing the answer would change the way I live now, which is, to me, the test of importance, or relevance. That said, Jesus’ comment to the thief on the cross would lead one to believe that upon death we are immediately in paradise with Jesus. That idea is certainly comforting, especially to those of us who have lost loved ones. If there is one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4) then it makes sense (to my current understanding) that THAT Spirit is in the presence of God – all the time – whether we sleep, or whether we are in some other, yet unknown, state. I have considered the possibility that as I sleep I dream – a dream so vivid that it seems real, and I’m fine with that.
What about John 14:2-3?
Grant – thank you for taking time to read the post and to contribute your thoughtful comment. The questions that I ask around this verse are:
– how many of Jesus’ other teachings were about going to live forever in luxury?
– since this is the only verse in the entire Bible that mentions mansions I wonder if he was speaking figuratively?
– was Jesus the first born among many brothers? (Romans 8:29)
– is the first born son the rightful heir to the Father’s house (i.e. the kingdom)?
– in John 14:2-3 could Jesus be talking about going to the cross, to die, to make a place (in the royal household) for the other brothers to take a place as heirs to the kingdom? (Romans 8:17)
Thanks again for reading and commenting.
I agree with the adage that we can be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. But to think there is no heaven as described in Revelations leaves so little hope.
What efforts have you made to bring heaven on earth? We do have a responsibility here on earth but to think that we can somehow bring heavenly justice to this evil world is unrealistic.
Your reasoning certainly sounds good, but so do a lot of other ideas, hope yours brings eternal life, I’ll focus on John 3:16 and do the best I can to honor Christ in this life, and believe on Him even though the future is a mystery. Isn’t that faith?
Thank you, Steve, for reading, thinking and commenting.