A while back there was some controversy over Doug Pagitt asking Todd Friel if Heaven was a place. In essence he asked, “If heaven is a place, where is it?” Todd was very indignant yet seemed unwilling or unable to answer… Many overlooked that as it is more acceptable to just “believe” in a “place” called Heaven. Even theologian N.T. Wright seemed to indicate in his recent interviews that Heaven is more than a place…
The issue is deeper than whether Heaven is a literal place. Jesus stated it was “at hand”, “Near” and “within you”… this seems to indicate that Heaven is more than a place if it is a literal place.
In a sense I agree with Doug Paggit yet in a sense I disagree.
Heaven is often thought of as the end place where we as believers in Jesus spend eternity. I agree, yet there is something missing in many people’s understanding as the “Heaven” now will not be as it is after the regeneration of all things. In that age, there is a renewed Heaven and Earth… meaning that this heaven and earth now will one day be restored to its original glory yet even more glorious than it was originally. We will move from “It is good.” to It is perfect in Christ Jesus.
One major issue is that many think of time in a linear fashion. We have all seen time lines where time is laid out in a line so we can see history in an overview. We see in a biblical view, Creation, Noah, Abraham, King David, Jesus, and the New Creation in its fullness. Yet if one notices time lines also have parallel history, Columbus discovering the Americas and Naval expeditions of the Ming Dynasty happened in the same timeline yet never interacted. (Though there is some indication Columbus may have used the knowledge that the Chinese gained in their expedition but that is a huge sideline) They paralleled each other in history. If we go off the map a bit, there is a separate history for Earth and Mars for meteorites have hit Mars that never hit Earth. If one can start seeing that history and time is brought into other dimensions one might start beginning to understand that when we bring in eternal things time begins to even take on a deeper and broad perspective.
God interacted in our “timeline” yet one would never say God is only in our ‘timeline”. In fact, as we begin to look at quantum physics we realize there are other dimensions that exist. This should not ever surprise the believer in Christ Jesus as we have many stories in the Bible where these other dimensions appear and interact in ours. From the concept of “the heavens” and “the Kingdom of God” to the angels that helped Abraham rescue Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah we see the eternal things interacting with our own limited view of time and space.
Many view the biblical timeline in this linear view and miss that parallel was always the eternal view. Yet, if we were to dig deeper, we would see time is not linear. I am not sure what the term would be, yet the idea of a matrix or multiple lines of time happening or possible a dimension not touched by time at all could exist beyond our perception. In this idea “heaven” is more than a place. It is beyond that definition at the least.
If time is more than linear meaning that God is in one state of being and we another, then the idea that “Heaven is at hand”, or “Heaven is within you” begins to become more broader that just the idea of dying and going to heaven. If God is working from a perspective of the eternal that does not have a linear view, but a broad view of all things and even things that are not as if they were. (Wrap your mind around that then read Hebrews 11:1 or Romans 8:22-25)
If one can start to see that when Jesus spoke of heaven, it becomes apparent heaven was more than a place. Jesus did say He was going to prepare a place for us, yet in that was he talking of a place in heaven or in the eternals as a whole? In John 14:2 where Jesus states this He states:
“2. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4. You know the way to the place where I am going."
Now in sense I see a “place” yet, I see that that “place” is that we are immersed into the Body of Christ. (1 Cor 12:13) For just as the Hebrews were baptized into Moses (1 Cor 10: 2-4) we have been baptized into the Body of Christ Jesus. We have been “placed” into His Body or His Kingdom. The “place” with many rooms is the same Body with many parts Paul speaks of in 1 Cor 12.
If se begin to understand that if all things are in Christ, and Christ Jesus was before all things and the One through all things were created, they are restored as they are placed in Christ.
I believe in a literal return and a literal restoration, yet, now we have the eternal living in us. I see we have Heaven or the Kingdom of God in us and us in it.
Many only seem to see that Jesus comes to live in them. In this they seem to think that Jesus becomes King of their little kingdom. This is true in a sense, yet if one misses that we are also placed in Him and being in Him we are now a part of His Kingdom. Once we realize the vastness of The Kingdom of God, then we can start to realize the biblical teaching of dying to self. We are to die to our own little kingdoms and rise to new life in Christ or the Kingdom of God for they are the same thing.
History is in parallels and not just linear. The eternals are beyond a timeline at all and may even be beyond our comprehension in this timeline we live in. Again, to simply call “heaven” a place is to diminish what is in the eternals and make it into our image or base it on our own vain imaginations.
When asked about the multiple dimensions I like to explain it is the idea of 3 spheres. I am not saying these are the only dimensions, but for simplicities sake if we are to look at creation in the idea of Kingdoms we might see this.
God created the heaven and the earth.
First we see that there is a sphere I will call the eternal, or Kingdom of God. God creates all things and we see the sphere of creation that is “good”. After the fall of Adam and Eve, we see a corrupted kingdom, or the satanic kingdom that is opposed to the Kingdom of God. The “good” creation is then shrouded in the cloak of the satanic kingdom. After the death and resurrection we see the Kingdom of God displace the satanic kingdom with the eternal Kingdom of God.
Within the Satanic kingdom as it had dominion, God would poke holes in the veil of darkness and shine light. He would choose individuals and later the Jews to be His light within the Kingdom of Darkness. Yet, note I am never saying God was not in control of it all. In fact the Kingdom of Satan was and is and will be subject to God’s Kingdom which is what they hate. At the time of Jesus on the Cross, the veil was torn. Just as the curtain was torn in the Holy of Holies to symbolize that God and man would no longer be separated, the shroud of darkness was torn and is shredding as the Kingdom of God displaces it.
In its fullness the Kingdom of God will fully drive out the darkness and bring in the light of the eternals. This is the restoration or regeneration of all things.