TO HEAVEN & BACK: here & hereafter & here again. 17 FEB 2017
Heaven is the real home of our hearts & some get homesick. We are not to love the world which is passing away anyway.(A) Anyway, we are promised that those who have known many tears will have them wiped away there. (REV 21:4) The purpose of this post is to strengthen/or recover people’s hope & meaning in life. There are basically two different kinds of trips that people make to heaven & back: 1) a Near Death Experience, & 2) an ecstatic vision. I have encouraged my fellow pilgrims to pray for the second and I know some who have experienced the first. I, myself, and some close brothers have each had our own ecstatic vision. I know that many who have had NDE’s of heaven are reluctant to say anything as they think their meaningful experience will not be believed. The main title to this post matches the title of a book by a Christian orthopedic surgeon whose kayak was pinned to the bottom after she went over a waterfall, and she died. Her book describes her journey to heaven & interaction with angels, and how sad she was to be told it was not her time to die, and she would be returning. While in heaven she did get the opportunity to ask many burning questions. The experience deeply enriched her faith & her relationship with Jesus.(B) Many other Christians have also written books about their experiences in heaven.(C)
THE BUS DRIVER. When I got on the bus that night not long ago, I was the only rider & the bus driver wanted to talk, so I let him. I wasn’t prepared for him to talk religion & politics. As I rode, somewhat bemused that he would venture into subjects that could get him fired, I mainly listened, adding a few words here & there to let him know that his semi-captive audience was not sleeping. After talking about supporting Trump, and being a Christian, and giving me some “Godtalk”, he got onto a special topic he researches: near-death experiences (NDEs) where Christians go to heaven, before coming back to their bodies. He loved to question the people at length about their experiences in heaven to determine to his own satisfaction that they were telling the truth. When I mentioned that even some non-Christians had such experiences, he said those had to be fake experiences, in his opinion only doctrinally correct Christians could have an experience of heaven.(D) I agree that we must pass by Christ to enter heaven for good(E) for he paid the admission price and Christ is the heart of heaven. Plus, God handpicks who gets in…while on the topic of who God let’s in to heaven, let me say I personally have no desire to try to judge the eternal fate of anyone…it is totally the sovereign God Almighty’s choice…. I tend to think that many people may be surprised that God has worked in the hearts of more people than they realized. Nor do I think it unreasonable that God, knowing the heart of a person, might allow them to experience heaven, because He knows it will convert them.
NOT WELL KNOWN. As I pondered heaven, I realized it is not well known by church goers. They wonder & hope to have their pets there…and so C.S. Lewis along the lines of animals being in heaven said, there could be a heaven for mosquitoes and a hell for men easily combined. And while the personal accounts of visiting heaven are engaging & fascinating…it would be worthwhile to explain heaven better from what the Word of God teaches us. First, the Word states that it is a greater reality.(F) From this some Christians extrapolated that Plato’s concept of heaven—where the pure ideal of each earthly item exists, had merit…but there is nothing really Biblical to back that. God created “heavens”, in other words, it is a created place.(G) More on that in a min. And in spite of God being everywhere, He has established His throne in heaven.(H) “I dwell in a high & holy place.”(I) The reason I mention this is that there are lots of ideas of what heaven might be: a mental projection by people, an intellectual illusion, a childish fantasy, or a quaint poetic inspiration. The early WT Society thought it was the star Alcyone in the Pleiades. But the Bible calls it the inheritance of God’s people. (J)
Some smart alecks ask, if heaven is real where is its address? As we examine the Word of God closely, one gets the distinct impression heaven (aka Kingdom of Heaven) is quite close—and indeed is most likely another dimension, which is why we can’t find it with our telescopes. As the Word says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard…” (K) Understanding it as another dimension explains a lot. Yahshua told the religious leaders that they were looking in the wrong places for the Kingdom of Heaven—it was “within”—or “among” people. (The Greek word used could be translated either way.) And when Christ comes into our hearts, we experience the eternal coming into our lives, which is pictured as being seated with Christ in the heavenly places.(L) So the real question is not Where is heaven? But where are we spiritually & where are we in relation to Christ??
MORE INTERESTING—LITTLE KNOWN ITEMS ABOUT HEAVEN. Several things are confused with heaven. First, the intermediate place between death & the resurrection, while heaven-like, is not heaven.(M) Nor is the millennium. (N) In the Greek text where it is translated “powers in high places” referring to evil satanic powers, the word in Greek is really “heavenly places”.(O) Perhaps the light people see in a NDE is not the light of God’s heaven, but a lighted heavenly place where evil powers reside. Realizing that evil powers are in heavenly places, helps us understand a number of scriptures. In COL 1:20 it says Christ will “reconcile all things to Himself…whether things on earth or things in heaven.” It explains why a NEW heaven and a new earth are both needed.(P) This new heaven & new earth is when the veil between the two is taken away and they merge & become both physical & spiritual. So we see the Bible has the theme>>from paradise lost to paradise regained. The entire earth is the Lord’s. (PS 24:1) and the Meek of God are blessed because they will inherit the earth.(MT 5:5) In other words, Christians don’t despise God’s earthly creation like the Gnostics because it is material. Being material does not make something sinful. Christians will not have to choose between earth or heaven as the two merge and have a duel renewal!! Likewise, Christ’s resurrection body was functional in both our dimension and some supernatural dimension. We see the new heaven coming DOWN to Christ like some gigantic Holy of Holies. (Q)
FINAL THOUGHTS. What are our lives? A vapor, a mist according to the Word.(R) So how far off is heaven anyway? Perhaps in a few minutes in the hereafter, we will understand far more than we have struggled to learn here in a long time. I think it is healthy to be curious about heaven, and to realize that it is our inheritance. From what I can discern, you will be worshipping, singing, serving, learning, & fellowshipping…but forget about preening & flapping your wings. Some think it will be a ceaseless party or endless contemplation. I think it will be the joy we have when we are with someone we deeply love. May you my friend contemplate your glorious future with Christ, & be blessed.
REFERENCES. (A) 1 JN 2:15-17 (B) Neal, Mary C., MD. To Heaven And Back. Waterbrook Press, CO, 2011. (C) There are many examples: for instance, Howard Pittman’s Demons: An Eyewitness Account; Don Piper’s 90 Min. In Heaven: A true story of Death & Life; & perhaps Todd Burpo’s Heaven Is For Real. (D) An example of a skeptic who saw heaven and then changed is Eben Alexander, MD who wrote Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the After Life…Another would be The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from NDE. (E) REV 22:14,15 (F) HEB 8:35, 9:24, 10:1,2 (G) GEN 1:1 (H) PS 123:1 (I) ISA 57:15 (J) MT 25:34 cf. HEB 11:16 (K) 1COR 2:9 (L) EPH 2:6, COL 3:3 (M) cf. JN 14:2 (N) REV 20 (O) EPH 6:12 (P) the New Heaven & New Earth are mentioned at 2 PTR 3:10-13 & REV 21:1,2 (Q) REV 21 (R) JAS 4:14
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