Month 6:02, Week 1:1 (Rishon/Pesach), Year 5935:144 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 31 August 2011
Or Is It Down Here on the Earth?
Many Messianics are confused as to where Heaven is. Not a few believe that there is no spirit world, and insist that the Land of Israel is 'heaven'. And then there are those Christians - the vast majority - who believe that heaven is some 'other place' and that once we have died we will go to that place and never return to the earth again, whether as disembodied spirits or as resurrected beings.
A common error amongst many Messianics, as well as Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, the Worldwide Church of God and its offshoots, and a number of others, is that they believe that there is no consciousness after death. This can vary between believing that we continue to exist after death but are 'asleep' to believing we have no existence after death at all and that Yahweh will 'recreate' us from His memory at the resurrection. This teaching, known as soul-sleeping, leads the groups, churches and denominations which espouse it into multiple errors. If you're a messianic and believe that there is no existence after death or that we are 'asleep' somehow, whether in Yahweh's mind or in some other state, then please read the discussion I had with some messianics on this subject: The Doctrine of Soul-Sleeping: Is It Scriptural?
In Scripture, the English word "heaven" renders the Hebrew shamayim - which is always plural, and can mean either the place called heaven or the sky/atmosphere - and the Greek ouranos which often occurs in the plural (heavens, skies) meaning the same thing. But as in English, there is little difference between "heaven" and "heavens". Whether singular or plural, they refer to the same thing.
The apostle Paul tells us that there are at least three 'heavens':
Even if some of our messianic friends were right in claiming that heaven is, in fact, the land of Israel, that still leaves two other heavens unaccounted for - unless, of course, they reject the apostle Paul, as some do. Ironically, some of these anti-Pauls accept the pseudepigraphical Books of Enoch which speak of seven heavens (as do the Talmudic rabbis), which compounds their dilemma.
" know a man in Messiah who fourteen years ago -- whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, Elohim (God) knows -- such a one was caught up to the third heaven" (2 Cor.12:2, NKJV).
In fact, what scripture refers to as "heaven" is never the Land of Israel even if it will, one day, join with heaven - but more of that in a moment. The three biblical "heavens" refer to:
There is a fourth category parallel to Paradise known as hell of Gehenna, but this is not one of the 'heavens' per se. All of these categories exists in the same physical space but are in different dimensions. However, the exact locus of hell is beneath our feet corresponding to the centre of our earth, and the exact locus of Paradise is above (that is, around and beyond) the surface of the earth. There is also a physical aspect to hell known as Tartarus where fallen nefilim angels are incarcerated.
- 1. The physical sky or atmosphere (e.g. Gen.1:1; 7:11; Mt.5:18; Ps.19:4-6);
- 2. The psychic realm; and
- 3. The spirit world or abode of the disembodied righteous prior to resurrection, also known as Paradise (Lk.23:43) and the Garden, and the spiritual abode of Yahweh and those beings - angelic and human - associated with Him (Dt.26:15; Jon.1:9; Ezra 1:2; Neh.9:6 Mt.5:35; 7:21; Mk.13:32; 1 Pet.1:4; Heb.4:14, etc.).
Finally, it could be argued that there is a fifth category, though this is more an extension of the third, namely, one or more resurrected, heavenly worlds or planets where resurrected beings like Yah'shua (Jesus) also live. Paul says that there are three categories of resurrection, the first two being unitary places, whose glory he compares to the sun and moon, respectively. The third is a category consisting of multiple places whose clory he compares to the stars themselves and the differences of brilliabce between them, as viewed from earth:
Thus there must be zillions of resurrected worlds-to-be (and at least one already extant, where Yah'shua/Jesus dwells) out there, the first and most glorious being made for the children of the first resurrection (who come forth at the beginning of the Millennium and who inherit a glorified earth) - the saved who trusted in Messiah and obeyed Torah and dwell in the presence of Yahweh; the second most glorious being made for the believers who are the children of the second resurrection (who come forth at the end of the Millennium and inherit another world) - the saved who trusted in Messiah (an uncountable host) but who refused to obey all the mitzvot (commandments) and do not live in the presence of Yahweh, but nearby; and the third most glorious (which have very little glory at all in comparison) being the unbelievers who are also the children of the second resurrection (who also come forth at the end of the Millennium but who inhabit numerous other dim worlds throughout the cosmos - the vast bulk of humankind who were never saved and never obeyed and live far, far away from Yahweh's presence.
"There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead" (1 Cor.15:40-42, NKJV).
Thus there must be many, many resurrected spheres in the eternities - many 'heavens', far more than the rabbis even dreamed of, though only three categories.
In resurrected spheres, spirit, psychic and physical matter form an indivisible continuum (since these are immortal). Our own psychic world contingent with earth is highly contaminated and largely ruled by demonic entities. Resurrected beings can move in and out of our world but we cannot move into theirs.
The non-atmospheric heaven is clearly described as a place of perfection and purity and the word is even used as a reverent periphrasis for Elohim (God) Himself. Thus when the prodigal son says that he has sinned against heaven (Lk.15:18,21), he is saying that he has sinned against Yahweh, the holy place (Paradise) and holiness itself. When something is given to man "from heaven" this is clearly understood to mean that the source is Yahweh-Elohim Himself. The most imporant example of this is Matthew's use of the expression "the kingdom of heaven", which is identical to "the kingdom of Elohim (God)" (see my study, The Kingdom of Elohim in the Gospel of Mark).
In conclusion, we must consider the eschatological use of the term "heaven". In both the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'rit Chadashah Scriptures (New Testament) it is recognised that the present universe (including Eretz Yisra'el or the Land of Israel) is not eternal, but will vanish away (along with Eretz Yisra'el) and be replaced by "a new heaven and a new earth" (Is.65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet.3:10-13; Rev.21:1), that is, the resurrected earth at the end of the Millennium.
Thus the 'evolution' or final state of Heaven is to be a combined earth and spirit world or Paradise of which the coming down of the New Jerusalem out of heaven down to earth is a prefigurement (Rev.3:12; 21:2). Beginning with the locus of Jerusalem, a bit of heaven comes down the earth at the beginning of the Millennium (for the children of the first resurrection), the rest (who survive the Great Tribulation) living outside. Finally, at the end of the Millennium, after the generations of man have been tested one last time following the release of Satan and the demons from the Pit, and their final vanquishment and destruction, the old earth is burned up and a totally new heaven and earth replace both.
In light of the complete revelation of Scripture on what Heaven is, we can know for certainly that Eretz Yisra'el or the Land of Israel will one day be encompassed and absorbed by heaven as a locus of centre point, but is in no way heaven itself which, of course, is infinitely larger. And even then, the locus of the locus - Jerusalem - is not built of this dust, but is assembled in heaven itself. Therefore we cannot boast of heaven being in any sense earthly, for it absolutely is not.
If you would like to hear a description of what heaven is actually like by someone who has been there and come back, then please watch the movie on the experience of Ian McCormack who died, visited heaven, and was sent back.
This is the true doctrine of heaven.
Comments from Readers
"'Heaven' is the only place to dwell now and forever. If we see where our spirit man is dwelling, in Yahushua we are members of His body. We will put off this body, rise from the 'dust' at our last breath. And then know where we are at in his presence where He is at Yahuwah's Right Hand. Before the Last Trump, as many who have gone on before, or at the Last Trump when all remaining in dust body will get out of this dust and then appear in the Judgment Seat of Messiah. Heaven then comes to earth... after we've received incorruptible Quickening Spirit body as the pattern of Yahushua in the restoration of all things, to the progression of the reversing of the curse of corruption even in the earth as it is changed into the incorruption as it once was. And we will know that the kingdoms of this earth have become the kingdoms of Yahuwah Yahushua the Head of His Body as the meaning of Yah'Isha'El. YAH ISH as Husband ISHA as Wife EL Kol Elohim as Sons and Daughters of the most High. So too, that's not saying either that things will still take place concerning the Land until then. It's all in the progression of what is in heaven will come to pass upon the earth. And the whole is moving like a big clock while this dust realm is catching up to what is at the highest realm of 'no time'.. being/existing..." (RDR, USA, 31 August 2011)