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The Bible and Heaven

What is Heaven? What Does the Bible Say About Heaven?

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Assuming that salvation is necessary, and assuming that you have lived in a way to merit salvation, and/or assuming that anyone at all is saved, the final question becomes: saved for what? Just what is it that all those happily "saved" people are supposed to get, anyway?

The standard response is that saved people go to heaven. Just what "heaven" entails is always very murky. At one time, people seemed to think that saved souls would float around on clouds playing harps. Today, anyone asked this question will offer the more evasive "live in the presence of God" - as if that really explained anything.

Because this is supposed to be the ultimate goal, it's worth asking for more details. Just what is it we're supposed to be working for? What is it that I'm supposed to reshape my life for? The Bible offers some indications of what heaven is like, but predictably, most people trying to sell you on the idea of heaven don't want to be reminded of those passages. For the most part, they don't depict anything all that grand.

 

Wars in Heaven

Dennis McKinsey quotes 7 verses and a parable describing heaven in some fashion; unfortunately, some of the qualities described are downright awful.

And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.
Rev. 12:7
And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.
Rev. 19:14

Admittedly, these two passages seem to take place at The End and don't presume to describe the normal conditions in heaven. However, the fact of the matter is heaven is usually depicted as being a perfect place to be - yet if that is the case, how can it experience a war?

 

Violence in Heaven

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.
Matt. 11:12

Here, we see that the "kingdom of heaven" can suffer violence. Is the "kingdom of heaven" the same as heaven? There is no reason to think otherwise - causing us to wonder why we should want to strive to reach a place where the "violent" can take over.

 

Class & Status in Heaven

The above passage from Matthew is in reference to John the Baptist, and is immediately preceded by the following description of him:

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Matt. 11:11

Clearly, the "kingdom of heaven" has levels of status: some are least while others are first. Although God can create any sort of class system it wants, does that really describe your idea of a "perfect" existence?

 

Heaven is Not Eternal

Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Matt 24:34-35

Heaven will eventually pass away? Well, so much for the claim that heaven is a state of eternal bliss or eternal communion with God. Heaven may last a really, really long time, but according to Jesus, it is temporary like the earth is temporary.

All in all, McKinsey cites some interesting passages which do not in any way support the general impression among Christians that heaven is a great place to go. So what is the basis for the idea that heaven is really a place worth striving for? That's something worth asking the next evangelist who accosts you. If they cannot find any biblical basis for a wonderful heaven, be sure to question where the more commonly-held conception of heaven comes from, because conservative evangelicals are opposed to "adding" anything to the biblical text.

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