Heaven – Part 2 of 5: “Does Your Vision of Heaven Pass the Test of Scripture?”

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A few years after our nation was attacked by Muslim terrorists on September 11, 2001, the cover of “Newsweek” magazine promoted the story:  “Visions of Heaven: How Views of Paradise Inspire and Inflame Christians, Muslims, and Jews”. The article’s aim was to answer the question, “How can the promise of paradise inspire so many to goodness, and a few to murder?” Besides unveiling the obvious irrationality of terrorism and its godless conduct, the article also reveals peoples’ comprehensive confusion about Heaven, the definitions of which are foreign to Scripture. 

And further, these confused and Scripturally ignorant people are certain that they will ultimately end up in Heaven. Sincerity in regard to one’s religious beliefs, regardless of the truth, seems to be the accepted norm and sure ticket to glory. Yet, despite the moral and spiritual decline of American culture, the latest Gallup polls have found that roughly 78% of Americans still believe that they will go to Heaven – the highest percentage recorded in forty years. Against this staggering presumption, only 4% of all Americans believe they will end up in Hell. Sadly, wrongly held views about Heaven have been a dominant feature in the history of mankind. Why? It’s because there is an earthly view of Heaven in mind.  Such views often lead to vast carnage on earth … and undoubtedly lead untold numbers into a fiery Hell every minute! This being so, where do we begin in our attempt to build a correct vision of Heaven? We begin today, and remain, with the Bible. The Word of God teaches us that Heaven proper has three distinct levels: The first level is known as the Atmospheric Heaven. This is the realm which begins on the ground and then goes up to approximately six miles into the sky (Genesis 1:20). It is the place where the birds fly, the clouds move, the rain falls, the thunder booms, and where the lightening streaks. In this one sense all human beings live in heaven – but only God’s people can experience Heaven on Earth (1 John 5:13).  The second level is known as the Celestial Heaven. It is the realm from approximately six miles up into the vast expanse of outer space (Genesis 1:14, 17). It is the place where the Sun, Moon, Planets, Stars, Galaxies and beyond, exist. The third and final level is known as Paradise (or Heaven proper). It is the realm where all believers go at death (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8; 12:2-4; and Philippians 1:23). Specifically, this is the very habitation of God, elect Angels, and righteous men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23). It is no wonder Jonathan Edwards called Heaven a “World of Love” and why J.C. Ryle quipped, “They that enter Heaven will find that they are neither unknown nor unexpected.” May tomorrow’s worship be emblematic of Heaven ... Next week: Part three.

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