Monday Musings for July 16, 2018

Good morning, Musers,

I find it interesting that we use words confidently even when we are not sure of their meaning. Take the word heaven for example. If we’re talking about heaven and hell, then heaven is the place you want to be. But, is it a place? … and I’m not asking, is in an entity? I’m asking, does it have X, Y and Z coordinates in the universe? In my opinion, no… but some say, yes.

If you’re a Dispensationalist, then you likely believe that the Jews are going to have X and Y coordinates somewhere on the earth forever — which is one version of “heaven” — while we Christians will occupy the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12) … which is another version of heaven.

Yet, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus showed us that the abode of the dead was a large area divided into two separate chambers. One was called Abraham’s Bosom, and this was a place of comfort. But the other chamber was a place of torment. Now, I understand that Abraham’s Bosom represents heaven in the heaven/hell dichotomy, but it doesn’t feel like heaven to me. It feels like a holding place… comfort notwithstanding.

The first-century Jews shared the idea with the Greeks that the dead were somehow less than the living. So, although Abraham’s Bosom was the place you wanted to be if you died, being there was not as good as being alive. But more to today’s point, being there was not equivalent to being in the eternal heaven envisioned by Christians.

Today we have the benefit of New Testament revelation, of course, and this includes more information about the far future. But eschatology is imprecise. The book of Revelation is filled with symbolism and apocalyptic language… and “heaven” is a fuzzy word throughout the Bible.

So, what is heaven? … and how does it relate to the Kingdom of Heaven? That’s what’s on today’s menu. A believer heard some funny doctrine on a podcast, so she contacted me to check it out… and this forced me into talking about what will happen to people when they die.

Now, you’d think we Christians would agree on something so basic. But we all have different views of “heaven” and what the far future will hold. This is why some churches no longer include a preferred eschatology in their bylaws. This frees people from signing off on secondary doctrines that they don’t subscribe to… and as an Amillennialist, I appreciate that.

So, what and where is our eternal state? … and what and where is the state of the dead before Christ returns and gives us our resurrection bodies? Are we disembodied in the meantime? I think so… although some commentators posit that we will have temporary bodies to fill that gap. But is that gap heaven… albeit a temporary one? … because a New Heaven and a New Earth are coming (Revelation 21:1), and this seems to represent a physical place. So, is that heaven?

When I run into issues like these that challenge my previous theological commitments, I usually do a risk assessment. I ask questions like, what would I gain by subscribing to a new idea? Is it worth the trouble? What would it cost me in terms of my embedded beliefs to believe it? Then I adjust. You see, as long as I preserve the essentials of the faith, I’m free to adjust my beliefs portfolio to make maximum sense out of God and his creation. That’s my life.

To read the article referenced above, visit the link below.

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