Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Heaven 2

Mark 10:21 is informative about what to think about heaven, but it must be read in context and I’m asking you to read the whole text carefully — there’s a lot here and this passage directly addresses our concern. Is heaven a place to which we go when we die? What is heaven? :

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ?Good teacher,? he asked, ?what must I do to inherit eternal life?? 18 ?Why do you call me good??
Jesus answered. ?No one is good?except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ?Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.? ?
20 ?Teacher,? he declared, ?all these I have kept since I was a boy.?
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. ?One thing you lack,? he said. ?Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.?
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ?How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!? 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, ?Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.? 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ?Who then can be saved?? 27 Jesus looked at them and said, ?With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.? 28 Peter said to him, ?We have left everything to follow you!? 29 ?I tell you the truth,? Jesus replied, ?no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields?and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.?


First, we need to connect these terms: eternal life, kingdom of God, heaven, and saved.
Second, eternal life is clearly connected with the age to come in v. 30.
Third, eternal life/age to come are distinguished from “this present age” in vs. 30.
It won’t do to say “eternal life” means abundant life in the now; it may be abundant life in the now but that life is a life connected to the age to come.
Fourth, is heaven the age to come? Is heaven the kingdom of God? is heaven this present age?
In my judgment, the evidence of this text focuses “heaven” on eternal life (Jesus’ answer to the man’s question) and the age to come (v. 30).
Fifth, Jesus emphasize both now and the future, neither at the expense of the other.
Finally, if heaven is connected to eternal life and the age to come, then it is a place into which one enters in the future. Is it after death? Perhaps. Is it on earth? Perhaps.
We must be willing to entertain the option that “heaven” in Jesus’ language might be what later NT authors call “the new heaven and the new earth.” We must also be willing to entertain the option that it could refer to the earthly kingdom of God.

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Greg Laughery

posted July 1, 2008 at 12:33 am

Thanks Scot for this thought provoking post. I’ll wager this. Heaven is God’s space that he invites us into through creation, Christ, and the Spirit. That space is an already, but not yet space that will eventually be a fully earthly space with God in its midst when all is renewed.

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Scott M

posted July 1, 2008 at 4:04 am

I’m struck by a few things. First, the man asks about “inheriting” life. That’s always struck me as an odd way to phrase the question. On one level, it says the man recognizes he does not yet have full and lasting life. On another, it says that life is something the man believes he will inherit as a son in the people of God. Further, an inheritance is something you would expect in the present age, even if it is enduring and lasting.
And Jesus’ response seems in line with that. He says keep the commandments. That seems to say, as a son obey your father’s commands and you will receive the inheritance of a son. That then makes Jesus’ further statement all the more remarkable — especially the statement: Follow me. The man enters into his inheritance of life by abandoning everything and following Jesus?
Anyway, not really major thoughts. But it seems that life, at least any sort of true and enduring life, is something we lack, but is something we receive as we follow Jesus and it’s a life which continues into the age to come.

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Kyle (Ranger)

posted July 1, 2008 at 4:13 am

As I was trying to think through what to comment, Scott took my thoughts and put them into words:
“But it seems that life, at least any sort of true and enduring life, is something we lack, but is something we receive as we follow Jesus and it?s a life which continues into the age to come.”
Yep…that says what I was thinking.

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posted July 1, 2008 at 5:41 am

The question of the man that fell to His knees was answered by Jesus in priority. First He pointed to where goodness dwells because of who goodness is and then how selfishness can pull the reigns when death is left to drive the course. Jesus did this all, as can be excpected, by Love.
Jesus statement of “follow me” was purely exposing His relationship with the Father and that was always His intent to make evident. As with the man who fell down on his knees, goodness had a lesser meaning, so does heaven have a lesser meaning, spoiled.
As far as a new heaven and a new earth, what preceeds is a new heart, which God Himself gave us (Jesus), with the capability of perceiving the full spectrum of Love Himself.
We are blessed by Grace. Since Jesus Himself told us not to take thought for tomorrow, let us consider Him sufficient today and not miss Him by looking for Him tomorrow.

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John Frye

posted July 1, 2008 at 5:43 am

Without getting sci-fi, is there any merit in thinking that heaven is a present and enduring (eternal) and *parallel* dimension where God dwells? So, it’s not way out there, but here. The Celtic spirituality idea of “thin places” points in that direction, doesn’t it?

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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 1, 2008 at 7:06 am

#5 John
I was wondering along the same lines. I also wonder if heaven here isn’t more or less “the place where God is.”
I’m not sure it plays into the question of heaven but there is also something interesting about v. 19. Jesus captures all the person-to-person commandments except the one against coveting. The man says he has kept all of them. Then Jesus says he lacks one thing. His prescription goes right to the heart of the man’s coveting spirit.
I wonder if we haven’t over spiritualized the “treasure in heaven” part. Without minimizing the clear relational and spiritual aspects, I wonder if there isn’t a material aspect as well; that is that we will have an abundant material existence.

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posted July 1, 2008 at 7:43 am

I think it’s interesting that Jesus makes a point about what people who give things up will receive in this present age, as well as the age to come. The man’s question is the one that contains “inherit”, which sets the tone toward the age to come, but Jesus is sure to correct the notion with how much and what will be given to followers even in this present age.
As for the future aspect, Jesus says in the SoM that the “meek will inherit the earth”, similar to the OT which I believe says that the meek will inherit the (promised) land. You can’t inherit anything unless you’re alive (with eternal life?) when someone else dies–it’s an out of place verb otherwise. The OT also says something about the wealth of the wicked being stored up for the righteous, if I recall. Putting it all together, when this age and all who are loyal to it pass away, the meek, the righteous, “inherit” the new earth in the age to come.
Also, I thought of how the NT defines “eternal life”: “know [God], the only living God, and Jesus Christ, whom [he] has sent.” A current, intimate and fruitful connection to God is eternal life.

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Richie Merritt

posted July 1, 2008 at 8:41 am

The parallel dimension in which John mentions #5 – is something I had heard in a sermon a few years ago with respect to God being omnipresent and also with respect to Angelic travel through space and time; to and fro from Heaven. Interesting thoughts?
However.., the question is really, what is the goal? Eternal life with Him or the idea or prospect of Heaven? Meaning does it really matter if it is here on earth or in Heaven? The goal is eternity with Him, and that does begin with the Kingdom of God becoming ever present in your heart, mind, & soul, and your current living/life.

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Wonders for Oyarsa

posted July 1, 2008 at 9:01 am

We know “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of Heaven” are used interchangeably. Rather than calling “heaven” the place where God is, might it be helpful at all to think of it as “speaking of God as a place”?

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posted July 1, 2008 at 9:09 am

“Storing up treasures in heaven…” is the line that intrigues me. Perhaps Jesus is asking the young man to get used to living more like we will live in the “new heavens and new earth.” This is a point McLaren seems to drive at in The Story We Find Ourselves In. Thus, the young man, by being generous, caring for others, extending love (assuming he takes Jesus up on His offer) is learning to live as he will in heaven. A “head start” of sorts…
Thinking aloud…throwing it out there. 8)

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posted July 1, 2008 at 11:45 am

If God the Father would ask me today ” Richard, where is heaven? I would have to reply ” wherever you are dear Father.”
If He would ask me “What is Heaven?” then I would have to reply “Heaven is being with you dear Father.”
If He would ask me “Is Heaven now?” Then I would have to say ” Certainly, or I would’t hear you dear Father.”
The voice of God, His Word, mocks raw spirituality with the very substance of Love in humanity as we declare our total dependency to be the person Christ died for to save from independency, that is, non-relationship.
Heaven is the conforming adventure of Christ in you, the hope of Glory. Finally, Heaven is being yourself, the one Jesus went to the cross for, not the one we imagined we should be.
Anyway, that is the way I see God.

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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 1, 2008 at 11:50 am

WfO #9
“speaking of God as a place”
Seems entirely possible to me. Or maybe heaven is a mode of being in relationship to God.

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Jim Martin

posted July 1, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Am enjoying this series. You’ve got me thinking.

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Dan B.

posted July 1, 2008 at 1:41 pm

I appreciate this series because it focuses attention on a common error within Christian faith and spirituality, which is an emphasis on the heavenly interim state after our death and before Christ’s return, vs. new heavens/new earth resurrection that comes along with Christ’s return. The Resurrection is the hope that is most often pointed to in the Scriptures and the one on which Paul says our faith finally rests.
Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis does a great job with some of these distinctions (the only scholarly article of his I could point you to online is this:
While a focus on the stylized version of heaven may seem kind of harmless, there are some important things for us to think about- especially the fact that our typical elevation of heaven also tends to elevate an almost gnostic spirituality of eternal soul, but a disregard for the body and physical resurrection.
I don’t have a lot of time to look this up right now, but it might also be helpful for us to think about the word “kingdom” which is part of so many of these discussions. I remember Gibbs in my classes with him emphasizing the verbal aspect of this noun which he preferred be translated as “reign”. This helps us realize that oftentimes as Jesus was using this word he wasn’t always emphasizing place, but the action of God and his will.

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John O

posted July 2, 2008 at 1:25 am

I felt that you equated ‘treasure in heaven’ with ‘heaven’ far too easily. There may be justification for doing so, but if there is you did not attempt to provide it. If ‘treasure in heaven’ is eternal life in the age to come then shouldn’t the emphasis in that phrase be on ‘treasure’? It seems to me that we could use the word ‘treasure’ to summarize the phrase far more effectively than ‘heaven’.

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Scot McKnight

posted July 2, 2008 at 5:24 am

John O,
Thanks for your comment and question. It is hard to summarize so much in such short compass, so yes, much more could have been said. But, notice v. 17 and then v. 21, where what the rich young man says, “inherit eternal life,” is turned around by Jesus to mean “treasure in heaven.” Yes, “treasure” is what one will acquire “in heaven”. And notice v. 30 where receiving things comes up again — in the Age to Come it is “eternal life.” Well, some thoughts.

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