Thank you to our friends, Pastor Brent Ingersoll and Pastor Greg Hanson from Kings Church for allowing us to use part of their Q&A video. They give us some important insights to help us better understand what the Bible teaches about Heaven.
** Below is a rough transcript of the video above that was edited to make it easier to read. I’d highly recommend you listen to the video. The transcript does not follow who said what or conversational banter but I believe we accurately converted the ideas expressed in the video. If there are any discrepancies you can lay the blame directly on me! (Rod)
Edited transcript: What Exactly Is Heaven?
Is Heaven a place? Is Heaven a reality? As a Christian what does it mean to live in the light of Heaven? How do we understand Heaven and then how is that supposed to affect our lives?
Jesus the Bible clearly tells us to look forward to heaven, but Jesus also seemed to say things like “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” and taught us to pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven’. So there was very much a ‘now’ element to heaven but also a ‘not yet’ and a coming reality to Heaven.
Heaven is not an abstract saying that we conjure up. In the Bible it’s described as a real place. The Bible describes three heavens, the first being our atmosphere, the firmament, where the clouds are and the birds fly, the sky. Then there is outer space, which would be the second Heaven. The third heaven would be the place where God dwells. We don’t know where it is but we do know that Heaven is the place where God’s presence is most strongly manifested.
Heaven is where God is and we have His promise, that we’ll be able to spend eternity with God in heaven, in his presence. That would be the ‘not yet’ component, but there is also Heaven here and now. The Kingdom of Heaven is here but it’s not fully realized yet. It won’t be realized until the second coming, until Jesus comes again and takes his own to be with him.
I think one of the things though, about understanding Heaven is that we shouldn’t think of it as a geographical place. In Revelation John said he saw a door open before him and Jesus told him to come through it to see what Jesus wanted to show him about things that would take place. IT doesn’t seem quite right to think of Heaven geographically like we tend to think it is, bit not an abstract concept either. Maybe thinking of it in terms of another dimension would be easier.
The Bible definitely talks about heaven being a place in some sense. Paul says to be absent from the body is to be present with God. That there actually is a space that when you die as a believer you go and you are in the presence of God.
So there is clearly a space but at the same time there is an authoritative reality of Heaven that Jesus wants us to live under and it is expressed through us here and now. That’s a really important thing to be aware of. I think maybe in the past, in the 80’s, a high-value was placed, at least in Evangelical circles, on a future Heaven, as in you die and are going to go to Heaven or Hell. Those are very valuable questions and should definitely not be thrown out, but that focus may have been at the expense of forgetting that Heaven is also a present reality.
If we look back at that era it does seem like there was a premium put on Heaven someday but not Heaven today, and I think there’s a tension we’re supposed to manage when it comes to living in the reality of Heaven. If we just think about heaven is a place where we go, we slide into something called gnosticism. That’s basically thinking of Heaven as this disembodied place. Matter, our bodies, the Earth become bad things. They can be thought of as inconsequential. As long as you believe, when you die you get to go to heaven and live happily ever after. That’s not biblical and that is not the ethic that Jesus taught at all.
Jesus very much taught that you need to be ready when you die to go to be with Him, but Jesus spoke more about Heaven’s return here. When Jesus spoke of Heaven, yes it was a place but it was a reality to live your life under in the here-and-now. Something to look forward to coming in its fullness but something that we walk in and we embrace in the here and now. When Jesus did Miracles he was doing them in the authority of God and the authority of Heaven. Scripture says we’re ambassadors of Christ but that means we actually take the power, we take the authority of the nation we represent. Like in Roman times, Rome was a place but Rome was also a dominion and an authority.
So to take Heaven the way the Bible really wants us to, is to think of it as the hope that we hold in front of us that really informs our lives and anchors are lives. It’s where our treasure is, where hope is, but also it’s a power and it’s a governance that we are supposed to seek to let invade our lives. To govern our lives and to actually touch others lives. So it is both a coming promise and a present reality that were supposed to constantly live under.
Heaven should be something we think about and dream about but that we also experiment with and walk in. That’s more of a holistic view of Heaven. When the Bible speaks about the very end, like if you read Revelation 20, 21, 22 it actually speaks of Heaven and Earth coming together in a new creation. So the Heaven in existence right now is also temporary the same way Earth is temporary. The current Heaven where I believe my grandparents or other believing family members are right now is also going to pass away the same way the Bible says the Earth is going to pass away. That’s what it talks about in Revelation 21 which says “I saw a new Heaven and a new Earth and new heaven came down like a bride adorned for her husband and they came together as one.” That’s the picture the Bible paints of Heaven. We are to long for heaven’s intersection with Earth that will come in its fullness someday, but we also embrace it as a present reality today.
In Revelation 21 it talks about how God’s presence is among His people on the new Earth. The Heaven we picture right now is different than what Heaven will be. The focus used to be more on Heaven in the future. Heaven was primarily about eternal life and I think that the natural way to think about that is that you life this life, you die, and after that you start eternal life. But the truth is that eternal life has already started for those of us who have chosen to place our hope and faith in Jesus.
I think the scripture in John 10:10 where Jesus said “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly,” that the word life means ‘all-encompassing life’ in the Hebrew it actually means a totality of life, both now and forever, and that’s a huge piece. If there was an error, maybe 15 years ago it was putting too much stock in tomorrow, in the coming reality, and not enough in the present reality. I would say now maybe in this era we don’t talk about having the promise, the reward of Heaven, enough as a future reality. We’ve kind of tabled that.
I’m all for reaching for miracles, experiencing heaven now and experiencing the authority of Jesus right now. If you’ve heard me preach at Kings Church you know we reach for those things, but I actually feel like we need to talk more about Heaven and dream more about Heaven and meditate more about Heaven as a coming reality to offset the hope we have.
I wonder if maybe these times we’re in with the Covid crisis that one of the reasons maybe we don’t think about heaven is that you and I most of the time, unless one of our loved ones go through some type of illness, mostly live in an unbelievable amount of comfort and security. We don’t need to really think about Heaven. But you look throughout the ages of history and even around the world today, people are way more in tune with the promise of Heaven in the gospel as a reward and as an ultimate return, then maybe you and I are because we are unbelievably rich and unbelievably blessed to live where we live. I think sometimes we lost Heaven as being a great reward and promise for us to look forward to.
– Pastor Brent Ingersoll and Pastor Greg Hanson, Kings Church, NB, Canada