“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD” (Pr 16:1~NASB)
Suppose you are the average modern day Christian, who has gone to their family doctor after having some tests completed and you now find yourself sitting in the Oncologists office. He/she sits across from you, crosses his leg (I have a male doctor), and begins to make a little light chit-chat as they all seem to do today, before they lay the bomb on you.
“Grayeagle, your biopsy indicates that you have a rapidly growing malignant mass for the second time. This time it is the opposite lung. This is a nasty small cell cancer, and to be honest with you, it doesn’t look good. The ladies out front will set up a few more tests just to clarify everything.” I can tell he truly wants this to conclude. Not being the brightest bulb in the pack I lightly say, “So what does all that mean, Doc?” “To be rather straight-forward, it means that I’m of the opinion that you need to set your house in order.”
“So you’re saying I’m dying?” He sits there and kind of stares at me as if he must be talking to his collie, and I can see him thinking, what’s wrong with this idiot? (I’m playing with his head, and he’s the one who doesn’t get it. What did he expect me to do- weep, wail, and howl? I mean, come on, I finally said, “Yeah, I get it, Doc. Don’t worry,”
I get out of the office and into my car and then it truly hits me – I guess all my years of theology” that I’ve been teaching is now going to be proved or negated – huh?. My first though was that I am going to see Heaven soon. My second thought was what do I know about Heaven? Do you want to know the truth? I know next to nothing about the real heaven. I know many hymns about streets of gold and all that stuff, but theology should never come from hymns, it should come from the Word of God.
The Unknown Paradise
When I die, my absolute plan is to go to Heaven, if for no other reason than it beats the alternative. To the best of my knowledge, all confessing Christians plan on going to heaven. However, if you ask a Christian what heaven is like all you will get is 1) nothing more than a bunch of old Gospel song lyrics, or 2) jokes. I think faced with the immediate adventure, I want something more substantial that a song lyric or joke. Now, you would think a theologian would know all about this subject, but guess what – I don’t. I’m sure I’ve heard a hundred sermons on heaven and read dozens of papers that were nothing more than a bunch of gibberish. Let me ask you – what do you actually know about heaven? And don’t give me some fantasized stuff you created in your own mind. Things like living in a mansion. Now, stop and think about it. If we were in our glorified body, supposedly like the body of Christ, then why in the world would we even need a house, let alone some kind of mansion? Are you expecting snow, or rain? Houses (mansion of not) are for the sake of protection. What need do we have to be protected in Heaven?
Why do we lose all common sense when it comes to things Divine, the Bible, and our religion? What about all those streets of gold? The fact is the book of Revelation does talk about a Capital city that God is going to erect in the second heaven, where the King of Kings is going to set His Throne. Yes, the streets are pure gold, and the items like walls, etcetera are made of precious stones. That is only a city. I’m talking about Heaven in its entirety. What are we actually going to do for all infinity. I think standing in a choir singing will get old after the first couple of years, don’t you? Some think we’ll become angels. Now, that’s because you haven’t read my book yet, because we are human and they are not. Are you beginning to get the picture of – duh, what is Heaven really like?
I want to know – what do we Scripturally know about Heaven? The truth is Scripture says just about nothing concerning the details of Heaven. It’s vague, indistinct, almost a secret. It challenges us to search and to learn what we can relate to that anticipated place of glory. This then is our search for Heaven.
Heaven comes in threes
Let’s get away from hymns and silliness and let’s simply talk about what we honestly know – like there are three heavens mentioned in Scripture.
I’m not kidding about that. Christian Scripture speaks of three heavens, which apparently seems to be sufficient versus some religions who want to believe in seven of them. The first biblical heaven consists of the region above us. It is where the clouds float by, and the birds fly around. The second heaven has to do with infinite space – that beyond that we call the universe where the sun, moon and all the beautiful masses those scientific telescopes show us. The third heaven has to do with that new heaven and earth that God has promised to this world once He has finally had His fill with Satan and his followers.
However, in this article, the heaven that I’m interested in is the third heaven. The one that the Apostle Paul seems to have visited, which is consistently referred to as the abode of God. Paul said, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago-whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows-such a man was caught up to the third heaven” 2Co 12:3~NASB In the next sentence he calls this “third heaven” Paradise – which is an important designation. At this point in our article, let’s assume that the third heaven indeed is Paradise. Paul does not call it the dwelling place of God, but he does say that this is where he received all his revelations – his schooling that made him the Great Apostle to the Gentiles.
Jesus also mentioned this place as Paradise in His earthly ministry. To the thief on the cross who confessed Him at the last minute, Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43, 2 Cr 12:4, Rev 2:7~ NASB). From these three references, we must gather that Heaven and Paradise are one in the same. It is the place where God Himself dwells.
Please, I’m all but begging you to mark this next statement: ALL Scripture truth must be set by a minimum of two (preferably three) confirming scriptures. That is to say, we are never permitted (as some do) to set doctrine on one statement that is made by a writers of Scripture. God Himself set this rule, when He said, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed” (De 19:15, Mt 18:16, 2Cr 13:1 ~NASB).
The Reality of Heaven
By that subtitle, I mean, this is not something some priest or television pastor dreamed up so he/she can ask for more donations. Heaven is a place taught in the Bible, and by Jesus himself. I would hate to have spent my entire life hoping and believing in an eternal home only to find out Scripturally there is no such place even mentioned. Have no fear – it’s there.
Actually, all religions that I know of have some belief in a heaven, in a verity of forms. I must confess that Christianity has some differing views of Paradise. One may wonder why, but it all has to do with things like Protestantism, Catholicism, this ism, and that ism. You understand I’m sure. Christianity is agreeable with the fundamentals of Heaven, it’s the fine points that Scripture doesn’t even talk about that we love to argue and disagree. I have found disagreements (in a godly spirit) to be extremely enlightening.
It Ain’t Easy
Honestly searching Scripture to find out the details – and that’s what we want here – simple details like, will I be greeted by my dad and mom, when I get there? that is not an easy thing to discover. To make matters more difficult, there are two other phrases used throughout the New Testament the Kingdom of God and or Heaven. Jesus taught the crowd one day, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Mt 5:3~NASB, and in that same discourse He said, ” Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” Mt 3:12~NASB. As He used that term in that discourse, one would assume He is referring to Paradise, or Heaven. In fact, as I began to search it appeared as thought the statement Kingdom of heaven always referred to Heaven, while the statement Kingdom of God spoke to a relationship. However, that assumption was destroyed as I went deeper into the Epistles. They are, used interchangeably. Sometimes, it is obvious they are referring to heaven, but other times it becomes apparent it is referring to a relational position.
Heaven is Promised
What little we do know about Paradise, or Heaven, is that it is promised to those who have put their faith in the fact that Jesus is the Christ, and that He is their Lord and Savior. It is that concept of bowing one’s proud knee and confessing that He is the Master of our life, and not we. Because we have done this act of faith in Him, Scripture has promised that when that time comes (and it comes to all of us sooner or later), that our eternal abode will be with God in this place. According to the Apostle Paul, we are to consider ourselves as citizens of paradise at this time. He said, “For our citizenship is in heaven,” (Php 3:20~NASB), and it is a place we are to eagerly look forward to. We must also assume that we are ushered into this place immediately upon departing from this earth. Again, Paul stated, “to be absent from the body and to be home with the Lord” (2Co 5:8~NASB).
If we take Scripture as being accurate, then we declare that Heaven is a promise in our future.
The Heavenly Move
For some of us who have not taken a lot of care of this body we’re living in, and others who have carried around a body of pain, I have some good news. By all that we know, the present body that you and I are living in is not going to make it to heaven. Scripture tells us that God “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Php 3:21~NASB). I honestly don’t think I want to spend all of eternity in this physical suit I’ve messed up anyway – I don’t know about you. Again, it is written, “for we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” 2Co 5:1-2~NASB).
The idea is that we are living in a suit designed to house and protect our spirit and soul on this earth. When we enter that eternal place called heaven, God is going to give us another house for our spirit and soul to live in. The greatest difference is that it will be like His, and it will never wear out. For people like me, that’s good news.
What It’s Like
Before we get into this next piece, I want to preface it with the fact that this illustration is pre-New Testament. By that, I mean Christ has not died on the Cross-for our sins, nor has He riser from the dead having the seal of the Father that His death covers the sins of those who confess Him as Savior. That is a vital piece of information because most theologians believe things in Paradise changed at that point in time.
With that disclaimer, we have this one extremely small piece of information concerning Paradise given to us by Jesus in this parable. Two men had died, and one was a rich, arrogant, nasty kind of person, while the other man was just a poor beggar – a homeless beggar. The beggar went to Paradise and was being comforted by Abraham. The rich man was in torment (a whole other subject) who thought he deserved a favor from Abraham. Notice Abraham did not berate the rich man, but he did use the beggar as an illustration, saying, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here” (Lk 16:25~NASB).
About the only thing we can conclude from this is that, there is comfort and equality in Paradise from all the ills that have befallen us while living on this earth. It is part of our reward. We also know that we will not be alone, as this beggar is seen with and being comforted by the famous Abraham of Old Testament fame. We also know that inside of us, while we rightfully fight and cling to life for as long as we can, we long to go to heaven, because our spirit testifies that it is a far greater place than this.
There is no conclusion to this subject, because there is not enough information given to us to make a solid conclusion. I feel terribly about this, as the assumption is that someone in my position should simply know these kinds of things, but I don’t.
I must leave this subject by saying, we will all find the answer to our quest sooner of later. For me, it will be sooner, but that is okay with me. I have to say that while I’m in pain for those I will leave behind; I am looking to mount my spiritual horse, and ride once again, into a completely new adventure. I do hope with all that is within me that I will be able to ride with in a full gallop with the heavenly wind in our faces.