The Daily Word of Righteousness

The Kingdom From Heaven, #2

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. (John 3:13)

Perhaps we need to clarify what we mean by "Heaven," for there are different applications of the term.

The word heaven often is used in the New Testament to mean the sky. The disciples saw Jesus ascend into heaven, meaning, no doubt, into the clouds rather than into the invisible spiritual Heaven (Acts 1:11).

Our personal belief is that the new heaven of Revelation 21:1 is speaking of a new sky.

Heaven sometimes means Paradise, which in turn is suggestive of the garden of Eden.

Heaven often is thought of as the new Jerusalem, with its street of gold and jasper wall.

A concept widely held by Christians is that Heaven is a spiritual place above us to which we will go when we die, if God deems us worthy. The true saint thinks with pleasure of going to Heaven. There is a pull on his spirit toward the glory and beauty of the spirit Paradise.

The wall of the new Jerusalem prevents us from seeing what goes on in that holy place. Our tradition of "mansions" is based on an unsound interpretation of John 14:2 (which actually is speaking of our dwelling in Christ and He in us).

Little is said in either the Old Testament or the New Testament concerning our state between physical death and the day of resurrection—the day of the coming of the Lord from Heaven. We Christians believe, however, that our stay in the spirit realm while we are awaiting the resurrection of our body is a time to look forward to with joy.

Paul wanted to go home to be with the Lord.

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:8)

Heaven indeed is home to us because in the present hour our life is hidden with Christ in God. This world is not our home. We are looking for a city that has foundations. We are pilgrims and strangers here in the present world.

Notice that Paul always emphasized going to be with the Lord, not going to Heaven as to a place.

For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (Philippians 1:23)

It is interesting to note that no writer of either the Old Testament or the New Testament even once spoke longingly of going to Heaven as to a place. At least, we cannot think of one such passage.

Paul did long for the redemption of his body, that is, for his bodily resurrection:

And not only they [the material creation], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)

Paul appeared to welcome his approaching martyrdom:

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. (II Timothy 4:6)

The word "offered" may be translated released. The time of Paul's release had come. We can imagine what release from the bondage of the flesh meant to this man who had suffered so much for the Gospel of the Kingdom. From pain to perfect comfort. From sorrow to joy. From imprisonment to wonderful liberty. From hatred to love. From fighting to peace. From the grim surroundings of the Roman prison to the beauty of the Lord's Paradise. "The time of my release is at hand."

To be continued.