Many of the Gospel texts have parallels we have discussed last week when we looked at Mark. So, I begin with a text that, while it doesn’t say much new, emphasises something important about “heaven”:
Luke 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ?Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?? 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.
Heaven here is up; heaven here is the presence of God who is right; heaven here is witness to the rightness of the kingdom vision of Jesus; heaven here is also understood as the place from which God acts in judgment on this earth; Jesus either has a different understanding of heaven or (which is probably the emphasis) a different theology of how to respond to those who do not respond to his kingdom message.
It might be good, then, to compare this understanding of heaven by James and John with what Jesus says in Luke 10:15, 18 in their contexts:
13 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. 16 ?Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.?
17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, ?Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!? 18 He said to them, ?I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.?
Jesus sees cities having two options: “heaven” or “Hades” and these options follow judgment. Does Jesus mean here a “new” heaven?
Jesus sees, in some kind of apocalyptic vision, Satan himself descend from “heaven” (place of God?) onto earth (?) where he could seek chaos and destruction. Here the cosmic language of up and down is assumed.
Jesus knows his disciples have their names recorded in some book in “heaven.”