Friday, October 24, 2008

ooooo, heaven is a place on earth???

Because our questions about the afterlife have risen out of the Greek worldview, rather than the Hebrew culture of the early church, it's not surprising that we can find very little in the way of answers. But if we are willing to suspend the need for answers to those questions for a bit, I believe we find a whole other set of questions that are worth pursuing with equal passion.

The early Christians saw heaven not as a place we go to but as a reality that comes to us. They talked about redemption and healing coming through God's creation, not apart from it. They believed we would live as freed bodies in this healed place, not as freed spirits in some other place.
Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing, p. 228-229


Praise by to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a lving hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you,

who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
I Peter 1:3-5

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,

because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed, but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.

We live by faith, not by sight.

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may recieve what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
I Corinthians 5:1-10

Jesus replied. "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor by given in marriage; they will be like the angels of heaven.

But about the resurrection of the dead--have you not read what God said to you,

"I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob"?

He is not the God of the dead but of the living.
Matthew 22:29-32

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.

We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
I Thessalonians 4:13-14

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
I Thessalonians 5:10

The Bible does say much about how things will be set right when Christ returns, among men and in all Creation; however, in regards to the earth, it also says that it is "reserved for fire", and that we look for "new heavens and a new earth", which seems to be something similar but different to what we have now.

As such, then, I think that Pagitt must do more then just claim that the early church didn't see Heaven as a place they would go to. Paul is pretty plain that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord". That doesn't negate the things said about Christ's rule when He returns, but those don't negate the other, either. Jesus said that in His day Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were living, and in the Transfiguration He converses with Moses and Elijah, who in body had been dead hundreds of years, and for Moses well over a thousand years.

And consider such biblical passages as are above, I think we can say that they did see Heaven as a place. A place where those who died before are, and where we go after we die.


Tim Bertolet said...

In terms of background and this "Hebrew vs. Greek" thing with respect to heaven. What about heaven in the OT as God's throne? Not to mention Second Temple Literature where they had clear concepts of accents into heaven, visions of heaven, and a heavenly temple/throne room.

Belief in 'the age to come' did not preclude a notion of heaven in Second Temple Literature.

Does Pagitt offer any documentation? Or is it just more of the asserted Greek vs. Hebrew dichotomy?

jazzact13 said...

Since Pagitt seems to have posted here a few times, perhaps he can explain his claims a bit about the dichotomoy. It would be of interest.