Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Heaven 5

posted by xscot mcknight

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.

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posted July 7, 2008 at 1:44 am

I am enjoying this series.
We have a problem with understanding the Heavenly Realm, because we live in a three dimensional world (four, if time is included). All our categories of thought are shaped by the world that we know, so our language is inadequate for describing the spiritual dimension of life. With regard to the future life, the New Testament uses physical images to describe a ?world? that is much more closely connected to the spiritual dimension and which is infinitely superior to what now experience. Human words will always be inadequate for describe something that is almost beyond description. Neither “heaven” or “new heavens and earth” seem really adequate. We must keep our wonder and awe.

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posted July 7, 2008 at 4:24 am

1Co 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1Co 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
1Co 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
RonMck… I think that is what you stated in your comment and the following scripture I believe speaks about the final resting place that this blog was seeking. New heaven and earth?
1Co 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

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Isaac Bubna

posted July 7, 2008 at 11:21 am

I too am enjoying this series a lot.
I am certainly surprised when we look back at what the Scriptures say and remove the platonic influence, that we end up seeing heaven in an entirely new light.

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Derek Leman

posted July 7, 2008 at 11:23 am

I’m a big N.T. Wright fan in spite of his supersessionism (since I’m a Messianic rabbi). I was disappointed with his interpretation of Mark 14:62 and I am disappointed with yours (you said you think it refers to 70 C.E.).
I understand your reasons, but the 70 event nowhere fits the language used here. In NT texts written post-70, none refer to the temple destruction as God’s wrath against Jewish-guilt in the crucifixion. I urge you to reconsider. The mystery of the parousia in a series of texts about soon coming events is not best-solved in this way.
Derek Leman

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Andrew Ford

posted July 7, 2008 at 11:47 am

I like what Michael Wittmer does in his book: Heaven is a place on Earth. He handles this topic thoroughly.

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Scot McKnight

posted July 7, 2008 at 12:05 pm

A little strong in tone as well as in language to say “nowhere” which is a casual dismissal of plenty of evidence amassed in a variety of places, and I suggest you begin with someone like RT France’s commentary on Matthew or RC Sproul’s book The Last Days according to Jesus. One is surely entitled to disagree, but to suggest the view “nowhere fits the evidence” is simply unfair if not disingenuous. Josephus, as you know, brings down guilt on the Zealots for causing the war, and it not without evidence to suggest that Matt 23 feeds into Matthew 24-25.
One more comment: to dismiss Wright as a supersessionist is to use a term (supersessionism) that many connect to anti-Semitism. Tom Wright believes along with many NT scholars and historians that early Christians thought the church was the fulfillment of promises to Israel. It would be more accurate and charitable to use terms like that instead of the one you choose to use.

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Derek Leman

posted July 7, 2008 at 2:19 pm

I didn’t mean to upset anyone. To be fair, please note that: (1) I said “the 70 event nowhere fits the language used here” and did not say there was no evidence for the view you espouse and (2) that I referred to Wright’s supersessionism but did not label him personally as a supersessionist (a difference of tone, I think).
I was not clear in what I meant when I said the 70 event nowhere fits the language used here. I meant that: (a) the temple destruction in 70 was not accompanied by any divine appearances and (b) that no post-70 NT texts make the connection (unless, arguably, you assume the evangelists were doing that and discount the idea that Jesus really said those words pre-70). The language of Mark 14:62 does not fit the tragic event of the temple’s destruction, I am arguing, because there was no appearance of Jesus in any sense of the word. Compare Acts 7 where Jesus is seen at the right hand at the stoning of Stephen.
Finally, as for my comment about Wright, please note that: (a) I stated I am a great fan of Wright and think highly of him and (b) that supersessionism is well-defined in a number of works, including Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology and Barry Horner’s Future Israel in terms consistent with my usage of the term. I wish the Bishop of Durham would reconsider that particular position.
Derek Leman

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Scot McKnight

posted July 7, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Methinks you’ve started playing rabbi games with your own words. “His supersessionism” is what you said. You can turn that around to not saying he’s a supersessionist all you’d like.
Mark 14:62 connects with Mark 13:24-27 and parallels. You’ve assumed an interpretation of divine appearances (I think I know what you mean by that) and the appearance of Jesus that is more literal than what many of us would advocate — which is the QED isn’t it? In fact, the literature I cited before you seem to be unfamiliar with because that literature makes the case that your interpretation is a misunderstanding of the prophetic, apocalyptic contexts of that language. Acts 7 fits with the view I advocate for Mark 13:24-27 pars and 14:62.
On supersessionism … it’s a tricky word. The question is this: Did Jesus fulfill the promises and if he did, did the church become that fulfillment in extension? If so, does that fulfillment mean that there is one covenant or two covenants? If one opts for the former, in my book one is some kind of supersessionist. If one opts for two covenants, then probably not.

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Derek Leman

posted July 7, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Thanks for the intriguing response. I know there is not time or space on this forum to go on about the topic. In the World to Come let’s discuss it over the perfect cup of coffee (making all cups of coffee in this present world seem mere shadows).

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Mike Mangold

posted July 7, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Derek: back to the point. How does a Messianic Jew interpret “heaven?” Is it much different than what Wright posits (and IMHO, his interpretation is very biblically based)? Does being a “supersessionist” or not make any difference in the long run? In the short run (this side of the new heaven and earth)?

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Derek Leman

posted July 7, 2008 at 9:56 pm

Thanks for asking. I just wrote a book about it called The World to Come, which is available on
I am in substantial agreement with Wright’s Surprised by Hope.
I believe that there is an interim state (present with God between death and the time of the resurrection) but ultimately our hope is the World to Come, a redeemed and renewed earth. Old Testament and rabbinic images of the afterlife add a great deal to our ability to imagine it. Desire and joy are clues as well.
Derek Leman

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