We are looking into such issues as whether or not “heaven” is the eternal home, or whether it is better to speak of “new heavens and new earth” as the eternal place, and then we are looking into whether heaven/new heavens is “up there” or the earth itself under new conditions as it is recreated. Once again, Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope sparked some of this discussion, as did my own readings of how Christians over history have conceptualized heaven. We are going through most of the NT texts in this regard because we think the NT gives us all the categories and evidence needed to fashion an adequate Christian understanding of heaven. Today …
… we look at a few more Gospel texts.
Mark 14:62: Jesus said, ?I am; and ?you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,? and ?coming with the clouds of heaven.??
Luke 2:9, 13-15: Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. … And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ?Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!? When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another…”. See also Luke 3:21-22; 4:25.
Luke 6:23: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”
OK, three different kinds of texts.
First, Mark 14:62 is recapturing the vision of Daniel about the Son of Man from Daniel 7. The Son of Man sitting is a vision of the Son of Man’s vindication; his “coming” is probably about the vision of his ascent into that vindication before the Ancient of Days; so I would say “heaven” here refers to God’s presence in vindication. If this refers to 70AD, which I think it does, it refers to an earthly event: the destruction of Jerusalem as divine testimony to Jesus’ Lordship and Messiahship. (More could be said, but I doubt we can settle the issues here.)
Second, the angelic presence at the birth of Jesus dramatizes the difference between heaven and earth, between the world of God’s glorious presence and the world of God’s earthly presence — the former testifies to the truthfulness of the latter.
Third, Luke 6:23 is much the same, only this time it is the followers of Jesus who will experience blessing/reward in the presence of God. This sense of heaven is future to the disciples.