by Doy Moyer
It seems at times that heaven gets downplayed. There are several senses of the term “heaven” in Scripture. We may think of the “heavens and earth” as all of the universe (Gen 1:1), “the heavens” as the expanse of the sky, or “heaven” as standing for spiritual hosts. Passages are numerous.
There is also ample evidence that “heaven” is used to refer to God’s dwelling and the place from which God establishes His authority and provides blessings. The passages below, I believe, sufficiently show this. As you consider these (and more, as this is not exhaustive), also consider that we are to seek that which is above, where Christ is (Col 3:1-4). If we know where Jesus is, then we know where we ought to be setting our minds.
Notice the repeated ideas that our hope is laid up in heaven, inheritance is reserved in heaven, names are recorded in heaven, and our treasures are to be stored up in heaven. This is vital, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). If our treasure is where our hearts are, and the treasure we are laying up is to be in heaven, then where ought our hearts to be?
None of this diminishes the fact that our hope is in the resurrection (Phil 3:10-11) or that we look for the “new heavens and new earth” (2 Pet 3:13). It seems that some set “heaven” as our hope over against the “new heavens and new earth” and the resurrection as something entirely different. I don’t believe this is an either/or situation, but a both/and simply because passages are numerous on both counts, yet are never put at odds with each other. Whatever the “new heavens and new earth” will be like exactly, it will be completely in accord with heaven as God’s dwelling place and the holder of our treasure. If even now the tree of life is both in paradise and before God’s throne (Rev 2:7; 22:1-5), then there ought to be no problem with the idea of a new heavens and new earth also being called Paradise and heaven. It certainly is no problem for God, though we may yet lack full understanding. This hope will be fully realized in the resurrection, so all of this goes hand in hand. Yet these passages demonstrate that thinking of heaven is also what we ought to be doing now. Consider:
- The Kingdom is “of heaven” (Matt 5:3).
- The Father is “in heaven” (Matt 5:16).
- God’s will is done in heaven (Matt 6:9) and can be “bound in heaven” (Matt 16:19).
- Treasures may be stored “in heaven” (Matt. 6:20) where reward is found (Luke 6:23).
- Heaven is the source of authority (Matt 21:25).
- The Master of all is “in heaven” (Eph 6:9; Col 4:1).
- Angels are “in heaven” (Matt 22:30), are “of heaven” (24:36), and “from heaven” (Luke 22:43).
- Heaven is distinguishable from earth (Matt 28:18) and contrasted with Hades (Luke 10:15).
- Names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20) and saints are “enrolled in heaven” (Heb 12:23).
- There is joy in heaven over sinners who repent (Luke 15:7).
- We sin “against heaven” (Luke 15:18), and God’s wrath is revealed “from heaven” (Rom 1:18).
- Jesus descended from heaven (John 3:13; 6:38).
- Jesus was “carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51) and “went into heaven itself” (Heb 9:24); He is at “God’s right hand, having gone into heaven” (1 Pet 3:22).
- The “third heaven” is equated with paradise (2 Cor 12:2-4); the Tree of Life is in the “paradise of God” (Rev 2:7), in God’s very presence (Rev 22:1-5).
- A Christian’s citizenship is “in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).
- Hope is laid up in heaven (Col 1:5) and our inheritance is reserved in heaven (1 Pet 1:3-5).
- Jesus will one day come “from heaven” (1 Thes 1:10; 4:16).
Never minimize the importance of thinking about heaven! However God may bring about the complete fulfillment of our inheritance, the resurrection, or the new heavens and new earth, we are clearly taught to think in heavenly terms. All spiritual blessings in Christ are “in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3), and we thank God because when Jesus—our hope—comes again, we will “appear with him in glory” (Col 3:4).