1. Travis Perry says:

    Um, I think you are actually guilty of misunderstanding people in this article. When people say “Heaven” they usually mean (though they often don’t think it out enough to define it as such) “being in the presence of God forever.” As such, the term covers both what you are calling “heaven” that exists now AND also the new heaven and new Earth that I agree will be created after the Millennium and which does not exist now. Using broad terminology is not in fact an error–it is just a different way of thinking. It would be a bit like someone in Old Testament times referring to the coming of the Messiah and saying the prophets foretell he will heal the sick and make the lame walk and rule as king over Israel forever.

    That thought in an Old Testament believer’s mind would in fact be correct–the coming of the Messiah IS to be associated with all those things. The fact they do not all come at once, that there are two comings of the Messiah, is not really an error, even if it indicates a lack of understanding (and the rule of the Messiah cannot be limited to the 1000 year reign either, for that matter, because he will also rule in eternity). So it certainly would be a mistake for someone to declare their point of view a “myth.”

    Likewise you are in error not to see that as a broad term, “heaven” usually incorporates BOTH where a person goes now after death AND the new heavens and the new Earth. Conflation of two things into one broader category is not an error per se–it is only if you get technical–which I do not believe justifies your use of the term “myth.” FYI.

    • Thanks for your constructive criticism! In return I would offer one central challenge: there are details about New Earth that many Christians apply as exclusive to the present-day Heaven, while ignoring New Earth altogether.

      (A parallel would be insisting that Jesus is only a suffering servant and not a victorious King, or else a victorious King and not a suffering servant.)

      For example, it is simply incorrect to act as if Heaven — an “up there” or “out there” version that does presently exist but will not stay the same — is our final destination. It’s also incorrect, and unhelpful to our growth, to refer to the present-day Heaven’s “streets of gold” and so forth, because these prophecies are exclusive to the future (not yet) New Jerusalem, the spiritual/physical capital City of New Earth.

      Similarly, many of the “heaven tourism” books’ descriptions of Heaven mention earthly scenes and elements such as green fields and animals in the present-day Heaven, but there is no indication today’s Heaven residents enjoy those resurrected creations or that even they await a future event.)

      Moreover, regardless of what “stage” of Heaven we are discussing — present or future — most popular imagery of Heaven is utterly void of those very things that God commanded man to do: be fruitful, multiply, and make culture. I am saying that Christians must recover a biblical vision for the eternal purpose of these things, lest we either ignore them or (perhaps worse) continue to use them for our own amusements and not God’s glory.

      Anyway, in this article I attempted to stick with the overarching myths about Heaven, such as no. 1: that everybody (except Hilter, et. al.) goes there, or that it is somehow against God’s will to imagine our eternal state.

    • P.S.: I’m fine with using the term “Heaven” as a catch-all term that refers to Heaven today (not united with Earth) and heaven future (united with Earth).

      Likewise you are in error not to see that as a broad term, “heaven” usually incorporates BOTH where a person goes now after death AND the new heavens and the new Earth.

      But that’s not the way many Christians are defining the term. Instead they define it as a Heaven “out there,” and Earth “right here” (an Earth that will someday be utterly obliterated), and ne’er the twain shall meet a la Rev. 21.

  2. dmdutcher says:

    5 is tricky. Really tricky. It’s not that there’s Biblical cause to doubt, but the problem is something like this story of two old desert fathers:

    “Two old men had lived together for many years and they had never fought with one another. The first said to the other, “Let us also have a fight like other men.” The other replied, “I do not know how to fight.” The first said to him,”Look, I will put a brick between us and I will say: it is mine; and you will reply: no, it is mine; and so the fight will begin.”

    So they put a brick between them and the first said, “No, it is mine”, and the other said, “No, it is mine.” And the first replied, “If it is yours, take it and go.” So they gave it up without being able to find a cause for an argument.

    We may not have stories because we’ll live in a world where the idea of arguments, or even of people getting mad enough to hurt one another will be alien to us. We won’t know death, not in the sense that if we’re killed we’ll just upload our personalities to a new body but in the sense that we never will die or will have cause to die or kill.

    Imagine a story where you had a person saying “I want to rule the world!” Then everyone says, “okay, the world is yours. Take it and go, so your joy may be full.” A lot of the stories we have now reflect the fact that sin and death are in the world, and when both are gone, I’m not sure we can say everything is the same. You need to be wary of putting too much of us into the future, as we aren’t transformed yet.

    • we’ll live in a world where the idea of arguments, or even of people getting mad enough to hurt one another will be alien to us.

      I think this assumption that people cannot have arguments or even honest differences without also sinning. But I must disagree with that assumption.

      First, and not just based on personal (and even very immediate! 😀 ) experience, I know that I’ve had multiple arguments with folks and only had enjoyable experiences. In fact, this is how I’ve made (and kept?) many friends. Perhaps the best word then is not “argument” but “debate.” Debate is not itself sinful. Nor is competition sinful, for then differences in belief and theory and even humanity itself (with all its many ethnic and cultural even perhaps even denominational differences!) would be intrinsically sinful.

      Second, I don’t believe that disagreement or even a joyful experience of “negative” emotions themselves are sinful. Therefore, true-life stories that include these elements could last forever. I can base this first on Scripture:

      1. The God-inspired Psalms include the whole gamut of human emotions. (And other books, such as Ecclesiastes, even include speculation about beliefs and lifestyles that do not include God.)
      2. Jesus’s fictitious parables include sin, sadness, suffering, and doubts.
      3. The Bible even includes references to historical accounts and myths that are not inspired or part of Scripture (e.g., Greek poets).
      4. Yet all of God’s Word will last forever — including the negative stuff.

      And also on biblical truth about our memories that comprise our stories:

      1. God will not “memory wipe” His people for their eternity. (No Scripture claims this; one text — Isaiah 65:17 — is misunderstood.)
      2. God uses all of our life stories for His and our good, now and later.
      3. Our stories include negative emotions and memories of sin — yet in eternity we will see (or begin to see) how God worked through them.

      So if God’s Story, “negative” content and all, will last forever, and if God’s stories for us, “negative” content and all, will always be remembered, it’s not much of a stretch — especially given the cultural mandate that God has not abandoned — to believe that manmade stories and things would also continue (in some form) in the New Earth and glorify God. And these stories would, necessarily, include true or fictitious conflicts and “negative content” that would glorify God by contrasting how we will at last be living.

      As one Doctor Who heroine said, this “sad [will be] happy for deep people.”

      • dmdutcher says:

        It’s not a memory wipe, but more a realization that we will be changed in profound ways. Fulfilled might be a better word. We debate now because we have imperfect information, but in Heaven debate is fulfilled because the Truth literally walks among us. I’m not sure how the fulfilled man will relate to the past things of when we were incomplete.

        The argument story is funny because it shows how different that kind of life would be. I’m not sure how we’d even relate to stories when we’d be so changed. I’m hesitant about saying much about heaven precisely because of that.

      • I think these are interesting ideas, but without direct Scriptural support I think they fall under the category of speculation. And I think the ideas do contradict Scripture’s overt promises that New Earth will have a lot of continuity with this world, at least more than we often presume. New Earths’ baseline is this very planet, a place that is renewed and purged of all sin and suffering, similar to how human beings will be resurrected and purged from all sin and suffering.

        But I’m very wary, and consider extra-biblical at best, ideas that go too far in emphasizing how different everything will be — to the point of rendering everything overly vague or surreal. When the Bible speaks about the future New Earth, it speaks in very Earthly terms. The very term “New Earth” connotes a new version of the same planet, just as Paul’s clarified promises that people will be sowed a fleshly body and raised a spiritual body — a Spirit-powered body — connotes continuity.

        I’ve not seen any Scriptural support for an idea that human beings will know all truth just because Jesus is among us. But apart from evidence one way or another, consider the logic. Would this not make humans omniscient on a level reserved for God alone? Would this not strip away a non-sinful aspect of humanity — the fact that we do not know all things and like to enjoy talking and learning? If we suddenly knew all things and did not need to discuss and study and learn, what sin-consequence does this fix? I don’t believe ignorance of a thing qualifies as a sin. And in fact, it can be a great joy. I do not expect to know everything about divine mysteries such as the the Trinity or even the exact mechanics of salvation. Rather, I imagine the joys of spending millennia or even all of eternity trying to resolve such mysteries and even disagreeing with others about how it all works and thus glorifying God who does know.

        In fact, that is similar to what we’re doing now. We disagree, but no one has sinned. And I hope I am not the only one enjoying this discussion.

        • dmdutcher says:

          It’s not that we’d be omniscient. It would be more like “Oh, let’s ask God.” Or that we can perceive God directly enough to get the truth. And if we’re without sin, we’d be without a lot of the things that lead us to untruths or disputations, or situations where we’d only see limited aspects of the truth. Like we’d never get tired, or never get irrational and expect someone is something they are not, etc.

          Human nature would change into its perfected form, or the form it was meant to be in. In some ways it’d be familiar, but in some ways it’d really be alien to us now. Kind of like a science fiction novel where a person becomes a robot; the best novels would show the changes that no longer being human would produce. Or like being a child; once you grow up, you’re no longer possible of having that mindset. You become something completely different than the child could foresee.

          Like we are all children in the Lord now, and heaven will be us finally growing up. It’s hard to conceive of that at times, and makes me a little hesitant to speculate on the changes that happen then.

  3. Martin LaBar says:

    Thank you for this.

  4. bainespal says:

    This is why I read Speculative Faith. This is a better explanation of both heaven and hell. I hope that the New Earth will be real and that there we can do things that actually are real, and be truly real ourselves. I hope God will make me and the people I’ve known in this life real enough to exist there. I can’t tell people to pray to Jesus to go to heaven; I only hope that they ultimately love ultimate Goodness. I hope the same of myself, and that some day we might really be able to come together to be able to create something real.

    • Thanks, Bainespal.

      If I were in a discussion with a non-Christian about Jesus, I would not even mention Heaven at first — either the misunderstood version or the corrected and biblical vision of New Earth and a redeemed paradise. Otherwise in either case, we risk making conversion about anything other than repenting of sin that we can finally draw near to Jesus Christ.

      That’s why I dislike evangelism scenarios that could go something like this:

      Christian: If you died today, where would you go — Heaven or Hell?

      Non-Christian: I’m not sure. What’s in Heaven that makes it so great?

      Christian: We don’t talk about it.

      (E.g., we don’t talk about it because “no eye has seen …” [1 Cor. 2:9a].)

      Really, this is a topic mainly for those who are already Christians. If you’re speaking with a nonbeliever, don’t make it all about “living in heaven.” That can be a severe distraction. Focus entirely on the Hero who saves wretched enemies from ourselves and from our rebellion against Him — Jesus Christ.

      • bainespal says:

        Asking whether someone thought he or she was going to heaven or hell is one of the evangelism techniques I was trained in. In other situations we were supposed to point to the circle with the cross on the throne symbol and the one next to it with the cross outside the circle and ask which one he or she identified with.

        We still don’t know exactly how Jesus saves or exactly who He saves. Only that He saves. (We can’t earn salvation by choosing it -> God has to save us -> how does He do that in our real-life experience of time and space?) I think the only legitimate “method” for evangelism is honesty. (A believer who was “saved” as an adult could perhaps honestly tell people to receive Jesus, but every time I’ve tried to do that it was dishonest and false because I can’t attest to God definitively saving a person in real time.) But sorry for derailing. I need to block myself from commenting on all my browsers again. 🙂

  5. By the way, here is a sillier way to make one of the same above points.

    1 Corinthians 2:9

    • ROSEMARY says:

      Thank you to the writer of the article – I appreciate the wisdom. Yes many seem to believe that Heaven rather than the new earth will be the believers’ final destination. But like Stephen said above. ” I’m fine with using the term “Heaven” as a catch-all term that refers to Heaven today (not united with Earth) and heaven future (united with Earth).” That’s how I perceive it when I refer to Heaven & when trying to share the gospel. I really enjoyed reading the article and entire thread/ comments. @ E. Stephen Burnett – really enjoyed reading your outlook. Learned a lot. Thank you. And thank you everyone else.

  6. Alistair Wright says:

    When we die our souls do not go straight to heaven or hell! When we die we go to the grave. Our bodies and souls are dead. Then when Jesus retuns we will be resurrected and go to heaven with Him but the wicked living will be destroyed, and tthe wicked dead will stay dead. Then at the end of the millenium the wicked will be raised, then the earth and all the wicked will be burned up. Then the earth will be made new again. Check out the utube lecture “Walter veith. The mystic realm of death”.

What do you think?