"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
The study about Heaven can help us develop an eternal perspective. This in turn can help us grow in our Christian walk and strengthen us in our daily lives as we wait for Jesus' appearing:
Colossians 3:1-4 - If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Heaven: Some Foundational Truths
Before we start our study of Heaven, we need to emphasize some foundational truths:
Foundation #1: We cannot enter Heaven apart from Christ, and His mercy and grace:
Ephesians 2:11-13 - Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:14-18 - For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
1 Peter 1:3-4 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.
Foundation #2: Heaven is a created place that God has chosen as His dwelling place:
Psalm 103:19 - The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.
Colossians 1:16 - For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
1 John 5:7 - For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.
Revelation 10:6 - The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer.
Foundation #3: Heaven's substance is God's presence. Therefore, when our hearts gravitate toward the things of Heaven, it is also a desire for God:
Psalm 73:25 - Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
Acts 17:24-27 - God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
Foundation #4: Our eternal destiny is to have a physical body and dwell on a physical Earth, because God will restore creation according to His original plan:
Isaiah 45:18 - For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: "I am the LORD, and there is no other."
Romans 8:19-23 - For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
2 Corinthians 5:1-8 - For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Ephesians 1:7-14 - In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth-in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Revelation 21:1-3 - Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
The Present, Intermediate Heaven
The setting of Revelation 4 is the throne room of God. The description below gives us a glimpse of what Heaven looks like today:
Revelation 4:1-4 - After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this." Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.
Revelation 4:5-8 - And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!"
Where we go if we die now?
At the time of death, a person's soul and spirit leave their body. For a Christian, the soul and spirit go into the Lord's presence in the intermediate Heaven:
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 - So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
Jesus' work on the cross has reconciled us to God:
Colossians 1:19-22 - For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight....
Before the cross, man was still separated from God, even after death. In the following parable of Jesus, we find that both the righteous and the wicked went to a place apart from God. The righteous went to a place of comfort and the wicked went to a place of torments:
Luke 16:19-23 - "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom."
Luke 16:24-26 - "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.'"
After the cross, Jesus took the righteous captives from Abraham's bosom with Him to Heaven:
Ephesians 4:8-9 - "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." (Now this, "He ascended"- what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
In the passage below, we see that the souls of those not saved continue to go to the lower parts of the earth or "Hades," where they await judgment:
Revelation 20:13-14 - The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.
The Intermediate "Body"
God designed us to have a body. God formed Adam's body first, and then He breathed spirit into him:
Genesis 2:7 - And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
The body, soul and spirit together are what make a person whole. That is why when we die, we will lose a part of our self; the tangible, solid part of our being. Though we will be "pleased" being with our Creator (2 Corinthians 5:6-8), we will be an incomplete being and therefore yearn for the day of complete redemption (Romans 8:19-23). God did not design us as a disembodied entity. We will not forever be bodiless; otherwise God's original design was in vain (Isaiah 45:18).
The scriptural examples below show that when we die we will be in some recognizable form. We will have an intermediate "body" of sorts, when we separate from our physical body at death. The following passages illustrate that at death, not only will we be recognizable, but we will retain consciousness, our identity, and the ability to reason.
1 Samuel 28:3, 11-13 - Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented for him and buried him in Ramah, in his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land.... Then the woman [a witch] said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" And he said, "Bring up Samuel for me." When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, "Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!" And the king said to her, "Do not be afraid. What did you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth."
1 Samuel 28:14-15 - So he said to her, "What is his form?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle." And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down. Now Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" And Saul answered, "I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do."
1 Samuel 28:16-19 - Then Samuel said: "So why do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy? And the LORD has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines."
Matthew 17:1-3 - Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
Revelation 6:9-11 - When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
The examples above give us some insight into what an intermediate, spiritual body is like. A person with a spiritual body has similar aspects to a person with a physical body, but there are obvious differences observed in these passages:
Other than the differences shown above, we do not know exactly what will be lacking in a spiritual body versus our physical body. Based on the parable of "Lazarus and the rich man" (Luke 16), we can deduce that some of our senses will remain. Recall that the rich man was in torments and desired water, even though he had no physical body with nerve endings or digestive organs present.
Without the physical equipment, it is not clear how a spiritual body can experience things such as hunger, thirst, or the ability to feel. What we do know is that Scripture is clear that a spiritual body is not the eternal form of an individual. We will continue to "groan" for "the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23) until that glorious day arrives that we receive our eternal body.
In the next section we will study the "resurrection body," which is the eternal body of an individual.
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