So what is “heaven”, anyway?

The next two Sundays (Oct 14/21, 2007) I am going to speak about “heaven”. Anyone open to sharing their thoughts about what “heaven” is? Just a warning, I am probably not going to give the USUAL answer to the question. I am increasingly convinced that many people have mixed up ideas about heaven.



  1. I just listened to your first sermon on the Kingdom of Heaven.

    All I can say is that my heart was affirmed in agreement to what was said.

    I grew up in an evangelical denomination that emphasized the evangelitical question of “if you were to die today, would God let you into heaven?”

    That perspective is so dangerous because it shifts the emphasis of what Christ achieved on the cross to be merely a ticket to heaven in the afterlife. Our life pursuits is to not score big with God to pass out these “Free tickets to Heaven” passes. That is an empty pursuit with little accountability to our responsibility as fellow citizens of the earth here and now.

    The harder task is to realize, yes, we need to accept the gift of salvation that Christ has redeemed us from this sinful heart and He desires to cleanse our hearts and reign as Lord and Saviour. Thats the first step. But the next step is to realize our responsibility to live out the kingdom of heaven that Christ explained. We can live that out fully when we grasp the bigger picture that life here and now is what needs to be renewed. We do not live for ourselves – we live in community.

    We can only grasp that when we realize that this life is not the end – it continues when Christ returns.

    So when I worry about missing out on life, Jesus reminds me of the paradox, that when you give your life you receive it.

    Norm, this message needs to be repeated often – it needs to get embedded into our being more deeply – too many distractions can easily blow this seed of truth away.

  2. Thanks for the clarification Pastor Norm. Keep on teaching and preaching these wonderful sermons…you are reaching the hearts of the congregation I believe. Sometimes that can be a very uncomfortable feeling, but God is working through you and the Holy Spirit. God Bless you as you show us the way.

  3. Hi Barb, great questions, I will try to be both brief and clear:

    (1) Where might hell be created or located?
    — Did God create hell? Is “hell” a part of God’s good creation order? Logically speaking, it has to be somewhere, at least that is what our finite minds think. Not sure I can answer this, other than to say the Bible does not explain “hell”, it simply describes the ultimate consequence of sin with ‘word-pictures’ like the Pit (Sheol), or the Greek idea of Hades, or the burning dump outside of Jerusalem called Gehenna. If heaven is ultimately with God, then the place of eternal judgment is ultimately without God. I believe in the ultimate consequence of eternal judgment, and the word pictures describe it as very unpleasant, but I hesitate to go beyond the word pictures to explain what it is, where it is, how it is. Its too hard for our finite minds to comprehend.

    (2) If heaven is going to be here on earth, why are we going to meet Jesus in the air? (1 Thess. 4: 14-17)
    — The Greek word “to meet” refers to a welcoming committee going out to welcome a visiting dignitary to escort them back into the city. “The word was used for the public welcome accorded to important visitors” (see also Acts 28:15, where the Romans come to meet Paul and leading him back into Rome). At the last trumpet, the angels will go to the “four corners of the universe to gather believers – the living and the dead – together. They will be “caught up” together and we will be changed/resurrected, and we will MEET our coming Lord “in the air” (or in the sky). We will be like His welcoming committee, and we will escort Him into His eternal kingdom. After meeting Jesus, this great multitude will descend with Jesus into His new creation (think of the new Jerusalem, gathering with Jesus in the sky, coming to rest on the new earth). The judgment will take place, and the eternal, perfect kingdom will begin.

    Many people talk about a “rapture” (the literal meaning in 1 Thess 4:17 is “caught up”) where believers will float in the sky for seven years while the tribulation occurs on earth. This is reading into the text, it nowhere mentions this. The simpler reading is to see this as the official welcome of the king into his kingdom, which is the simple meaning of the word “to meet”.

    (3) Does that mean God is going to create a whole new order, not restore or reconstruct His original creation? (2 Peter 3:10-12).
    — The “destruction” of the old earth and old heavens (ie this creation) is apocalyptic language for a complete, radical transformation. How much of the old remains, how much is different? I assume it will be like our new resurrection bodies, we will be new, yet there will be some continuity between our present selves today and our new/renewed selves. The fires of vs.12 suggest purification, like gold or silver put into the fire, so that the impurities are burned away and all that remains is a new, renewed and perfected gold. The answer, it seems to me, is a YES/YES, yes it will be a whole new order, and YES it will be the original creation restored, renewed, purified, perfected. These are just guesses on my part, its hard to know how literal we can read the figurative language used to describe things too difficult for our minds to conceive.

  4. Pastor Norm: Just a couple of questions re your messages on Heaven. If heaven will be restored i.e. “a new heaven and a new earth” on this earth, then where might hell be created or located? Also, then in 1 Thess. 4: 14-17, when Jesus returns,the Christ-followers who have died, will return with Him and His chosen ones who are alive, will be caught up to meet Him and “them” in the clouds and “so shall we ever be with the Lord.” If heaven is going to be here on earth, why are we going to meet Jesus in the air? Thank you for opening my eyes to see heaven very differently from that picture I had from childhood of heaven. Also, in 2 Peter 3:10, When the Lord returns, the “heavens” shall pass away with a great noise, the elements shall melt with a fervent heat , the earth and the works therein, shall be burned up. So, does that mean God is going to create a whole new order, not restore or reconstruct His original creation? Verse 12 says “the heavens being on fire whall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” Just wondering!

  5. When our kids were small and they worried about dying, and we talked about heaven they would say they did not want to go there if we were not there {yet} They would be lonely.
    We used to say that we did not know what heaven is like but whatever it was, it was a place where they would be happy. If they needed the cats or dog or friends or family or whatever, even if they weren’t dead yet, God would make it so they were there or that they did not feel lonley until we got there or he would do something!
    And no they would not be angels and theywould not just be singing all day unless that was what made them happy.
    I have always thought that I would be able to figure skate when I got to heaven because when I watch figure skaters they look so free and I want to feel that. Now I think God will enable me to learn to skate and figure skate and it will be a process… but I will eventually be able to do it. and in skating I will be able to express my joy and thankfulness and to praise God!
    I think Heaven will be living with work and play and conversation but it will all be good. There will be challenges but they will be positive.
    We will still have relationships with those who have died before us….
    What do I base this on? Mostly that it does nt make sense that after we die all the good relationships we have with people woud be gone… God created us to have relationship with Him and with each other. he would not throw those away when we die.
    I cannot see that we would just exist in some mindless continuous praise, what would it mean to God if we did not mean it, to mean it we would have to be able to think! and choose to worship and if we could think we would have to be able to think about all manner of things or we would not be ableselves…
    When I see Jesus face to face…… Wow! I cannot imagine really ….. but I will love Him without holding back and He will look at me and I will see Him loving me and I will be shaken to my core and I might touch Him and then worship Him…..
    This is so hard to write about heaven that I almost erased this, but I would really like to know what other people think….
    I like a lot of what Randy Alcorn writes about heaven.

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