Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Heaven 27

One of the most significant texts in this discussion of the “permanence” of heaven is Philippians 3:20. In context now:

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.


There are, Paul says, two sorts: those who are enemies of the cross of Christ whose destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is focused on earthly things. So verse 19.
There is another group, and this group is found in v. 20. Their citizenship is in heaven, Jesus the Savior is there and will return from there, and when he comes he will “transform our lowly bodies so that they will become like his glorious body.”
Wow, in this text Paul does not say Jesus will come and take us back to heaven where he came from. Instead, he say our citizenship is in heaven (where it is stored on file?) and Jesus will come down from there and transform us … and he doesn’t say he’ll take us back transformed. In other words, this text looks to me like a new heavens and new earth passage: Jesus the Savior will come down and transform our earthly existence into a new heavens/new earthly existence.
But, let’s be fair here: I’m not sure we can say that the transformation is not simultaneously a return into heavens. There isn’t evidence for that, because there isn’t evidence for anything other than a return to earth and a transformation. I suspect the new heavens/new earth view is right here.

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David B Johnson

posted August 13, 2008 at 7:44 am

I understand this is a huge question, but here goes … Do you think there is an historical reason why North American evangelicals are so consumed with the idea of eternity as being an endless existence (disembodied?) in heaven? This past Easter season we lead a pretty extensive series on Our Christian Hope, and we repeatedly emphasized that our hope is necessarily rooted in God’s promise to make a new heavens and a new earth. However, we still hear people who participated in the study referring to eternity as “in heaven.” Our core text was Tom Wright’s, Surprised by Hope. I am curious. Is there an historical explanation for our evangelical infatuation with an “eternal heaven”? Thanks for your ministry.

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Scot McKnight

posted August 13, 2008 at 7:50 am

Let me suggest two things, and admit that I’ve not done research on this though I have read a couple of books on the history of heaven ideas.
First, inertia. Most are nurtured in the faith with the idea that heaven is our eternal home and it is some kind of transformed body/spirit existence. I don’t think anyone can dispute the importance of history and inertia on this one. It isn’t that everyone has come to this view independently and on the basis of personal study!
Second, Bible. Even if Tom Wright can point to his understanding of the texts this way, this series shows that it is not as simple or clear as many think. If one admits that heaven is God’s presence and that we go to God’s presence after death — who would doubt that is true at some level? — then we go to heaven.
Final point: it seems to me that “new heavens and new earth” is one way of framing the final existence, and I’m not so sure that some other NT writers might be thinking the same thing but use the word “heaven.”

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posted August 14, 2008 at 3:37 am

My personal experience, and perhaps I’m the only one to experience this, although I don’t think so, is that when I realized, through another, that there was a present, caring, loving and of substance God here, as (in Him we live and move and have our being.) I realized that I was being touched by God through Jesus Christ who was seated at His right hand and therefore I experienced a bit of the new heaven and new earth since my previous experiences took on complete new meanings.
After the many years of struggle of accepting the fact that heaven’s blood shed for me was more than a fancy in validating me as a called out one, or one that has been brought out of the hell of self focus by the One with the true focus… the road by the cross took on meaning and Paul’s Gal.2:20 became a reality.
New heavens and new earths, I believe, are only the confirmations that are brought to light as our conforming to Christ takes on the meanining of becoming one even as He is One with the One in whom we will forever live, move and have our being.
Final exsistance, I don’t think that there is one, only the present one, as in 1Jo 5:11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. and 1Ti 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
I suggest that wherever we see God through the nail pierced hands, we see God in His heaven by the sight He gave us. I am sure the fallen world would call this lunacy since it has it’s own sense of sanity.

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posted August 17, 2008 at 11:13 pm

Heaven and Earth will pass away, but the WORD will not. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. We will get new bodies. Christians have eternal Life. The Kingdom both is and is to come. The Spirit(He is the seal of our citizenship) and the Son are both in Heaven and on Earth. We see dimly now. We know in part, but we will know fully as we are fully known. All is metaphorical–God is not Him, nor Her. For we are made in God’s image, male and female God created them. Eye has not see nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love Him. God is about rescue–from the beginning to the end. He knows what He created us to be and loves us enough to risk it all to see us be all that we can be in Him. (He sells all He has and buys the field). As my pastor likes to quote… “we are far to easily satisfied making mud pies, to imagine a holiday at the seaside.” John 10:10 “I came that you might have Life and Life more abundant.” He knows all that we can be–all of His hopes and dreams for us–He wants us to really Live and not be so easily entangled. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
When I hold my young children, it is clear that they are at home in my arms. No matter how beautiful the flowers, trees, or butterflies–it is Mama’s arms that matter most. Yes, when you sense that you are in His hands and greatly loved and intensly enjoyed by Him–so free and so full of joy, you experience what matters most in heaven, but there are also experiences that we will only experience there: seeing the cherubim and seraphim for example. All of heaven does not match the way it feels to be valued by the King. May God bless your ponderings with His presence! As for the fallen world…the veil is still over their eyes. They are still dead–not alive to Christ! Time for an Awakening! May His Kingdom invade our discussions!

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