Heaven is, and always has been, the highest hope of multiplied millions. This hope has brightened the way and lifted the heart of king and peasant, rich and poor, slave and free, educated and uneducated of all races, tribes, tongues, and nations. The patriarch Abraham “looked for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). King David had his grief for his deceased child assuaged by the hope that “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (II Samuel 11:23). The followers of Christ in New Testament times were obsessed with the confident hope and expectation of heaven. The apostle Peter confidently wrote: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth (a new realm of life, hf) in which righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:13).
Before going to the cross, Christ spoke to His apostle of His impending departure from this world and His ascension back to the Father in heaven. He said: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions/dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Christ left earth and went to His Father’s house to prepare an eternal abode for His faithful followers. The Father’s house is not here on earth because Jesus left earth to go to the Father’s house! And it is in the Father’s house (heaven), not here on earth, that He is preparing the eternal dwelling place of the righteous.
When in the presence of His apostles Jesus ascended to heaven, Luke says “He was taken UP, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly TOWARD HEAVEN as He went UP, behold, two men (angels in the form of men, hf) stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing UP INTO HEAVEN? This same Jesus, who was taken UP from you INTO HEAVEN, will so come in like manner as you have seen Him go INTO HEAVEN’ ” (Acts 1:9-11). Earth is down here where we now live, but heaven is UP! When Christ comes again, the redeemed (both living and dead) “shall be caught UP . . . in the clouds to meet the Lord IN THE AIR. And thus we shall EVER/ALWAYS be with the Lord” (II Thessalonians 4:17). (Note: Contrary to the speculations of the Dispensationalists, the preceding text is not about an invisible coming of Christ at some imagined “rapture” lasting seven years [or three and one-half years, depending upon one’s theory of the theory], but refers to the one and only second coming of Christ at the end of time when all the redeemed will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air to go with Him to that beautiful place He has prepared for us, and where we will EVER/ALWAYS be with the Lord!) I read nothing in the word of God that indicates that Jesus will ever again touch foot on this present earth! (All emphasis in the foregoing mine, hf).
Christ declared that “heaven and earth (this present realm of life) will pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The apostle Peter tells us how it will happen. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will PASS AWAY with a great noise, and the elements will MELT with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in will be BURNED UP (utterly destroyed, hf). Seeing then that ALL THESE THINGS will be DISSOLVED, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens being on fire, will be DISSOLVED, and the elements will MELT with fervent heat” (II Peter 3:10-12, emphasis mine, hf)? In the next verse Peter speaks of “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” The description of “the New Jerusalem” in Revelation 21 has it located in “a new heaven and a new earth.” Why? “For the first heaven and the first earth had PASSED AWAY” (verses 1-2)! This “new heaven” and “new earth” is a completely different realm from the one in which we now live and is the eternal abode of the redeemed, otherwise known as heaven!
The apostle Peter tells us that the faithful people of God have “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved IN HEAVEN for you” (I Peter 1:5). It takes a real hermeneutical contortionist with a theory to promote and an agenda to advance to so twist (II Peter 3:14-16) this text as to have the eternal reward of God’s people here on earth!
Addendum: From time to time I hear at funerals (and recently have been surprised to read from a couple of able men) I Corinthians 2:9 cited as a reference to heaven. I would urge those who use that text in such a fashion to study the context. Is it really about heaven, or is it about God’s wisdom (the grand scheme of human redemption) that previously (in Old Testament times) had been hidden, but now (in New Testament times) has been made known by the Holy Spirit to the apostles and prophets of Christ? (Cf. Ephesians 3:1-7, esp. verse 5). The things that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man” are the things relating to the scheme of redemption that previously had not been made known but which now “God has revealed . . . through His Spirit” (verse 10) . . . “These things we (apostles and prophets of Christ, hf) also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches . . .” (verse 13). While the words of I Corinthians 2:9 may be true of heaven, contextually heaven is not the subject under consideration, but rather God’s marvelous wisdom to save man through Christ.
December 1, 2015