Heaven is the subject of fanciful conjecture and heated controversy. But what the Bible teaches about it is very different from what many have been taught. Heaven and earth are fundamental data of religious anthropology, and Christianity does not have a monopoly on them.
The sky is above our head, the earth under our feet. Our whole life takes place and is thought in this space. The sky speaks of its vertical dimension, its happy impulse, its immeasurable aspiration to light.
What the Bible tells us about heaven
There are various beliefs about heaven and its role. For example:
- Many people who call themselves Christians agree with the New Catholic Encyclopedia, which calls heaven "the final resting place of the blessed who die in the Lord."
- The rabbis explain that Judaism is more concerned with the present life than the afterlife. But he claims that "in heaven the soul experiences the greatest pleasure there is - a greater insight and sense of intimacy with God than before." They acknowledge, however, that "even though Judaism believes in heaven, the Torah says very little about it."
- Hindus and Buddhists believe that heaven has different levels of spirituality. Heaven is a stage after which a person is reborn on earth or reaches a higher condition than heaven - nirvana or Buddhahood.
Some reject all religious conceptions about heaven, calling them childish nonsense.
What the Bible teaches
In the Bible, the word "heaven" has several meanings. For example:
- Genesis 1:20 speaks of the creation of birds that "fly above the earth on the face of the expanse of the heavens." Here, the term "heavens" refers to our atmosphere, the observable sky.
- Isaiah 13:10 mentions "the stars of heaven and their constellations," what today would be called space.
The Bible speaks of "angels in heaven" and "the place where [God] dwells, in heaven" ( 1 Kings 8:30; Matthew 18:10 ). Note that here, the words "heaven" and "heavens" are not mere metaphors, but designate an actual dwelling place.
At death, does all good go to heaven?
According to the Bible, the earth is not just a temporary home where humans live while they await death and then life in heaven. It makes it clear that death was never part of God's plan for humans. Consider this:
- God said to the first human couple: "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28). The earth was to be man's permanent home, where he would live forever. The first man and woman would only die if they disobeyed God. Unfortunately, they chose to disobey (Genesis 2:17; 3:6).
The first man's disobedience brought death-his own and his wife's, but also that of his descendants ( Rom. 5:12 ). Did this mean that there was no more hope for mankind?
The Bible says that "we look forward, according to [God's] promise, to new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter 3:13). Through His Kingdom, God will restore to the earth the conditions originally intended, "and there shall be no more death" (Revelation 21:3, 4).
Are we talking here about life in heaven or on earth? For a thing to no longer be, or no longer exist, it first had to exist. But death never existed in heaven.
Logically, then, this verse speaks of what will happen on earth, where we were originally meant to live and where we desire to be with our loved ones. The Bible also reveals that the dead will be brought back to life and reunited with their loved ones (John 5:28, 29).
In which heaven do Christians believe?
It is not a geographical or physical place, contrary to what many believers clumsily imagine. "Why are you standing there looking up at heaven" , say the Ascension angels.
We need to simplify, to strip away our gaze: the heaven of our faith is not elsewhere, but within; it is not after, but now. Jesus explains to his disciples, "The kingdom of God does not come with (signs) to observe; and we will not say, "It is here!" for behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).
My name is Maria. I am passionate about theology and I have been writing about the religious world for 5 years. I am curious and research everything about the religions around the world. I love researching the curiosities that guide the most varied doctrines in different countries and languages. Today, I am an editor and love to share my knowledge on the portal Prayer and Faith.