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24th March, 2008

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Heaven: God's user-friendly interplace?

Speculation can either drag its practitioners down into the blighted quicksands of error or it can launch them into lighted realms of fruitful insights. Which it does depends on the degree of discipline and logic with which its practice is accompanied; let's take a speculative romp constrained by reverence for (and hopefully the application of) sound logic. I'd like to consider an amazing possibility about heaven that, should it be true, demonstrates both the limitless ability of God and His love for His creatures.

We'll start with certainties. First, God is in heaven. Jesus Christ told us to pray to, "our Father in heaven" (Matt. 6:9). Israelites were told to pray, "Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven." (Deut. 26:15). Second, created spirit beings - angels - are also "in heaven". On this point, not only do we have Jesus' unequivocal testimony to that effect (Matt. 18:10), we also can read about Jacob's dream in which he saw "a ladder. set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it" (Gen. 28:12). Jacob declared, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" (vs. 17).

Now for a near certainty. Scripture denies that the "dead in Christ" have gone to heaven or even that they have any consciousness whatsoever before the resurrection of the just. Indeed, no passage can be found which says anything about glorified saints "going to heaven", (1 Peter 1:4 notwithstanding). Nevertheless, Jesus said that resurrected saints, "neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven" (Matt. 22:30). They will be endowed with the same "glorious body" that Jesus currently has in heaven (Phil. 3:21) and they, "shall be like him, for [they] shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). Above all, in the New Heaven and New Earth, the saints shall, like the angels already do, "see His face" (Rev. 22:4). In sum so far, God and the angels are currently in heaven while the saints

are yet to enter the heavenly realm.

Now for another near certainty: heaven is not a geographical location somewhere out there with astronomical coordinates. God has existed from eternity and He created His heavenly hosts of angels before He created the universe and earth (Job 38:6-7). Heaven was their abode before the heavens (universe) existed. Nor is heaven "outside the universe", on the "other side" of its edge. After telling Israel that He was both near and far from them, God asked, " Do I not fill heaven and earth? " (Jer. 23:24). Angels are "here" as ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). Though God and angels are in heaven, they are "all around us". Heaven just is not a literal place with dimensions. One could perhaps say, a little facetiously, that heaven is a "non-place place" - more a state than a place.

Now for a point of philosophical speculation, albeit one that has some justification in Scripture. John 1:1 says,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

We cannot emphatically state that this verse must be read as excluding anything else as existing "in the beginning", but many theologians do see it this way. In other words, in the beginning were only the Word and God. Nothing else - not even space. And nobody else - angels came later. God has always existed and has always been totally self-sufficient, in need of nothing else. Speculation - not even an abode!

Could it be, then, that God created the state that Scripture calls heaven as a user-friendly interplace, a "place" where the transcendent, eternal God could "rub shoulders" with His created and (eventually) saved heavenly host? Could angels "see God's face" if God did not see fit to humble Himself to share an abode with them? A fascinating thought, no?


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See also Jesus Christ: the Father's user-friendly interface


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