Summary: Is heaven strictly spiritual with no physical manifestation? No, the Bible speaks of heaven as both a spiritual and earthly kingdom. This has huge implications as to how we live our lives by following Jesus right now.
The Burning Question
What Is Heaven Like? Part 2
February 17, 2008
Alright, we are looking at some burning questions and have begun with “What is heaven Like?” First of all, we noted that there is a key to these questions and all burning questions. Humility is that key. We are human and we don’t know everything.
Speaking of humility take a look at this picture. These men are putting in posts anchored in cement as barriers so cars can’t accidentally crash into the building. They are cleaning up after a long day—finally finished. How long do you think it will take for them to humbly realize where they are parked?
We also started with the way Jesus would have understood heaven. Heaven is the place where God reigns. For Jesus heaven is the kingdom. And this kingdom is made up of kingdom-minded people who follow the ways of Jesus. And one day when all is complete and the kingdom is consummated, these kingdom people will worship, dwell with God in full relationship, and serve him. Now we turn to an important issue regarding heaven and God’s kingdom. How do we understand it to be like? Specifically, is it strictly a spiritual kingdom or are there physical manifestations of it? What say ye? Is it strictly spiritual? Is it only spiritual kingdom? Is it only an other-worldly kingdom?
I dropped hints at this last week. My conclusion: no, the kingdom is not exclusively a spiritual kingdom. Jesus would have understood the kingdom that he announced to be something very real and something God was doing on earth. “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is important for how we understand heaven and ultimately what things will be like at the end of time.
What is heaven like?
• An earthly and a spiritual kingdom
This is where the Church of God has begun a rethinking and expansion of its beliefs regarding the kingdom. The Church of God has consistently held that the kingdom was a present experience that would one day be brought to completion. The millennial reign is symbolic and it is happening now. Jesus inaugurated the kingdom and the kingdom life. Jesus died to provide the way for the kingdom to become manifested. Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus ascended to take his throne and continue to bring the kingdom into our midst through the lives of those that recognize his Lordship and follow his ways.
In a sense the Sermon on the Mount is a sort of manifesto of kingdom-life. It is how the kingdom becomes real to the waiting world. Don’t worry about food and clothes, The Lord Will Provide those because God reigns.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. This was an indication of a Davidic kingdom that was long awaited and expect. It was the Anawim or pious Jewish poor hope. Jesus expects that the kingdom that comes will be a social and political kingdom as well. It starts small like a mustard seed and grows. It works like the seed below the ground suddenly bursting forth to bear fruit and we don’t realize how.
It deals with the social order. It is setting relationships right. It means dignity for everyone. It means that the oppressed will finally be vindicated. Jesus said in Luke 4 that he had come to set the prisoners free and release their chains. Yes there is a spiritual application to passages like these but we do a disservice to the nature of the gospel and we ignore the context by jumping to spiritual application without applying it to the social, real-world context of its original setting. Jesus expects his followers to show the world that we belong to God by not just how we love God but by how we love others.
This is tough for us in a privatized and individualized culture. But the prophets repeatedly described a political kingdom. A real live kingdom. By bringing Jesus in on a donkey, the crowds were saying that they expected Herod and Caesar’s reign to be done. And Jesus apparently agreed that this was happening. What the people didn’t understand was how this was to happen by suffering and dying and when it would finally be fulfilled.
• A new creation (Revelation 21:1)
Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”
A new heaven AND a new earth my friends. Last we saw a passage from Revelation 15 that said “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
How about this passage from Isaiah 11:1-10: