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Heaven 4

posted by xscot mcknight

Here are some texts from Mark 13 that muddy the clear waters of tradition when it comes to the meaning of “heaven.”
Mark 13:25: the stars will fall from the sky [heaven], and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
Mark 13:27: And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
Here’s a very interesting statement:
Mark 13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Mark 13:32 No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
First, heaven here refers to what is up, the sky.
Second, heaven is in contrast to earth.
Third, skipping to 13:32, heaven is where the angels are.
Fourth, this statement, taken literally, means “heaven” is not eternal. It is no more eternal than earth. The word of Jesus is eternal but heaven is not.
This could be the discovery of a gold nugget. Does this text teach that heaven is not eternal, that it is a “temporary” abiding place of God and the angels? Or, is this simply a trope, a figure of speech? But quite odd for someone like Jesus even to say that heaven is not eternal if it really is. I suggest, the former — heaven is the temporary abiding place of God and the angels, a place to which some go, but it is not the eternal resting place.



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Richard

posted July 3, 2008 at 3:48 am


Scot, It is a good and wise conclusion that our Heavenly and present Father (or why pray the Lord’s prayer) knew that His presence is at least as important as ours or we would exclude Him to waiting outside our sphere of experience and reducing Him to a lesser God, void of the work of the cross and Jesus’s prayer for us to fellowship with Him as He does.
“I go prepare a place for you that you might be where I am also” was stated by eternal lips that shed eternal blood and eternal flames danced on human heads at Pentecost as the presence of the Life giving Spirit, the second Adam. Son of God and son of man, because He is, I am, is our inheretance for we walk by Faith and not by sight in the resurrected Life of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Heaven is relationship, that is why Jesus said we serve one of two masters and one of them gives us an illusion that there are three. Relationship is the Pearl of great Price and is so evident that it must be spoken of both in creation and evalution also. There is nothing that outweights the relationship of the Godhead into whom we were bought and brought. That is why Paul the Apostle stated that none of the expressions of non-relationship can seperate us from the Love of God.
Finaly, it is feasable that one being deaf could be standing one hundred feet away with the Niagra Falls at their back and not know that it is there in all it’s glory and there is that One which is closer than a brother.
Let us recognize the eternal expression of Love, Peace, and Joy in earthen vessels as the sphere of Heaven where no man can enter, (and all things point to) without the Love of God. That is why the good news is that we were reconciled to the Living God the Father by the blood of the Lamb, not that we are going to heaven.
Let us rejoice in Grace.



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Kyle (Ranger)

posted July 3, 2008 at 4:00 am


“I suggest, the former ? heaven is the temporary abiding place of God and the angels, a place to which some go, but it is not the eternal resting place.”
I agree…the eternal resting place is the New Heavens and New Earth. So “heaven” is temporal. At the same time the NT seems very clear that the New Earth is a second Creation, a second Garden of Eden. So how do we deal with the temporariness of heaven and earth in this passage because the idea of re-creation does not imply a burn it all up and start over outlook…except in 2nd Peter of course…



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Scot McKnight

posted July 3, 2008 at 5:10 am


Kyle,
One issue we have to think about is this: Jesus doesn’t use “new heavens and new earth.” Does Jesus have a meaning for “heaven” that includes both a temporal heaven and an eternal new heavens and new earth?
Too many Bible readers assume that what we can now see is what others saw — namely, we see new heavens and new earth and we also see heaven in our Bible. That doesn’t mean that each NT writer knew of those terms or those categories. I’m thinking aloud here.



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John Frye

posted July 3, 2008 at 5:48 am


Could “pass away” (Mark 13:31) include renewed into a another quality of reality? It does not have to mean “destroyed into oblivion” does it? So then the present “heavens and earth” will pass away as they become the “new heavens and earth.”



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Spherical

posted July 3, 2008 at 7:12 am


I tend to lean toward the position that heaven has two different meanings. One being the sky and stuff of the universe, which will pass away, and the other being the eternal dwelling place of God where His throne sits and the angels dwell. But if that is wrong, and if God wants to establish a “new heaven” at the time that He “ends time as we know it” and ushers in a time of “perfection,” I am okay with that. And what of hell? Is that going to be changed too? Just wondering…



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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 3, 2008 at 7:29 am


Mark 13:31 and 13:27 – I remember from my studies of Genesis 1 the ?heavens and earth? was a euphemism for ?all that is.? Kinda like we might say ?the whole nine yards? or ?lock, stock and barrel.? We don?t mean this concretely but as metaphors for ?everything.? I wonder if we are taking a euphemism and taking it literally here.
Mark 13:25 – I?ve always presumed that this was poetic verse, where the same essential thing is said twice: All the stuff in the sky will altered.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 3, 2008 at 7:32 am


Michael,
Yes, it could be trope for “everything that is, or everything on earth and in the sky.”



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Andrew Perriman

posted July 3, 2008 at 7:52 am


Scott,
When Jesus says that ‘heaven and earth will pass away’, is he not remembering Isaiah 65:17, which suggests that the passing away of an old heaven and earth is a metaphor for the ending of judgment on Israel? This would account for the very close association with the passing away of ‘this generation’ in Mark 13:30. His point would be that ‘this generation’ will see a radical judgment on (ie. AD 70) and restoration of Israel (ie. a new covenant in the Spirit) analogous to that envisaged by Isaiah. Notice that Isaiah expects death to be a continuing reality in this metaphorical ‘new heavens and new earth’ (65:20).
So there is no reason to think that Jesus in this context was talking about the real destruction of creation. The whole story of the Son of man, drawn from Daniel, has to do with judgment on apostate Israel and the deliverance of the faithful from oppression. Isaiah 65:17 slots comfortably into this narrative. I don’t think Jesus looks beyond this imminent eschatological horizon.
In Revelation, however, John appears to foresee a ‘literal’ disappearance of this present creation consisting of both heaven and earth (20:11), to be replaced by a new heavens and a new earth, from which wickedness, suffering and death have been banished. That suggests a fundamental ontological discontinuity, though it’s difficult to draw realistic conclusions from this highly symbolic language. Then the holy city, the dwelling place of God, descends from heaven to be in the midst of humanity on earth – God is fully reconciled with humanity.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 3, 2008 at 8:03 am


Andrew,
Fair enough. Are you arguing that Mark 13 states the exact opposite of Isa 65? In that context the idea is the “end” of judgment and arrival of redemptive graces. No?



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Andrew Perriman

posted July 3, 2008 at 8:29 am


I don’t think so. Isaiah speaks both of judgment (65:11-12) and restoration (18-25), but the restoration comes with a forgetting of the ‘former troubles’ (16) – so it is as though God has created a ‘new heavens and a new earth’: ‘the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind’. It seems to me likely that Jesus uses the idiom in an analogous sense, perhaps with a further idea of fulfilment: the judgment and restoration that he foresees is like that envisaged by Isaiah and perhaps a fulfilment of it.
It may be significant that he speaks only of the passing away of heaven and earth and not of renewal at this point – and it could be that what we have here, as perhaps Michael suggests, is simply a proverbial expression for the passing away of the old order of things rather than a deliberate allusion to Isaiah 65:17. But the main point would still be that he is not talking about the destruction of the cosmos.



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Tim Hallman

posted July 3, 2008 at 12:13 pm


If there is no “rapture”, and everybody dies, and if God does sweep away the old heavens and old earth – it’s not like a particular people are being “more” punished than others. Bodily resurrection from the dead is the promise – new bodies for a new heavens and and a new earth. If the point of heaven is being in the presence of God, and that is what is also called heaven, then since God is eternal, his presence/heaven is eternal. But for when heaven refers to the skies, well that part of heaven is not eternal.
Thinking out loud…



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Isaac Bubna

posted July 3, 2008 at 9:05 pm


Your suggestion that “heaven is the temporary abiding place of God and the angels, a place to which some go, but it is not the eternal resting place.” Reminds me of much of what N.T. Wright talks about in “Surprised by Hope.” I think that I believe in a heaven that is only temporary. While that suggestion may turn things muddy, that mud can also help a blind man to see.



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Isaac Bubna

posted July 3, 2008 at 9:05 pm


Your suggestion that “heaven is the temporary abiding place of God and the angels, a place to which some go, but it is not the eternal resting place.” Reminds me of much of what N.T. Wright talks about in “Surprised by Hope.” I think that I believe in a heaven that is only temporary. It seems to me that while that suggestion may turn things muddy, that mud can also help a blind man to see.



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Isaac Bubna

posted July 3, 2008 at 10:22 pm


Sorry about the duplicate comments… I don’t know what happened.



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Richard

posted July 5, 2008 at 4:03 am


1Co 15:48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
Col 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Could Heaven and above be the same place? A place of relationship?



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