Where is heaven, and how will we experience it before the final resurrection?

One popular view locates heaven in a separate, non-material world. In recent centuries scientists and clergy seemed to strike a bargain: science gets the body (and other physical substances), while religion gets the soul (and other non-material stuff). Social scientists claimed title to the psyche, however, leaving the church a wispy, anemic, spiritual realm congenial to neither scientific nor biblical insights about creation and human nature.

This view sidesteps the physicality of Jesus' incarnation and resurrection and their implications about heaven. It lacks the full force of the Christian hope for personal, conscious life after death.

Heaven is located within creation. It isn't tucked into a galactic corner. Rather, we can experience glimpses of heaven through ordinary senses, reason, and intuition. Heaven is behind us, among us, around us, within us, before us—eventually to be fully experienced eternally in our resurrection bodies. Heaven is as real as oceans and suns, winds and planets in a hundred billion whirling galaxies. It is as real as people with bodies, minds, and spirits.

We find intimations of heaven in stories of humankind, spiritual experiences, and nature, but in Scripture we get our fullest picture: The triumph of Christ over dark powers will release the cosmos from sin's bondage (Rom. 8:21). On the Last Day, we will become more, not less, embodied (note Rev. 21's highly physical description of heaven). Heaven is a dimension in which the cosmos is bathed in holiness (Rev. 21:22-27).

The apostle Peter understood Jesus' promise, "I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2), to mean not only his presence now but also a heavenly ...

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April 2005

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