Friday, April 9, 2010

Heaven, Our Eternal Home?

Well, I suppose it's all how you look at it. 
""I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Jesus said to the thief on the cross beside him. Luke 23:43)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words."

It had always been my thought that upon death we are released from time and therefore none of the "contradictions" in the bible mattered. I have since changed my mind about that... in part.
Stories like "the thief on the cross" and "the rich man and Lazarus" (in Luke 16) show me (unless the rich man just "thought" he was still in time) that we go straight to heaven or hell upon death. 
To make sense of "the dead in Christ rising first..." I have to think of that as a bodily resurrection, and the other as a spirit thing. 

So now back to the question of Heaven as a home. 
I suppose with this theory (and that's all it is) you live spiritually in heaven from the time you die until the rapture. Starting with the rapture, I imagine we have our new bodies. In my calculations there will be many, many people who remain in heaven during the thousand year reign.
Rev. 20:4-6 "I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years."

I'm still not quite sure if the martyrs that reign with Christ are martyrs from all time (which is my first choice), or just from the Tribulation, or would it include all believers that would've been unwilling to "take the mark" had it been in their time (that being my last choice). Either way, these chosen to reign with Him will only be in Heaven physically for a very short time (not quite a month by my calculations), and then back down to reign for a thousand years.
After the great deception (Rev 20:7-10) the old earth and sky pass away and it's Judgment Day. (dum-dum-dum duuum).
After that... the new heaven and new earth are revealed, and the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven.
This is where my question's "rubber" of Heaven as our Eternal home hits the "pavement".
Do you think that the New Jerusalem is Heaven? Or are they separate?

The description of the new Jerusalem is that it's 12,000 "stadia" in length wide and height. (That's about 1400 miles, meaning it would hide the entire Middle East, and would be over 4000 times as tall as the tallest building on Earth now.)  It's streets are paved in the purest, nearly transparent, gold, and it has twelve gates each made of a single pearl. The throne of God will be in the city and the river of life will flow from it.

The question then becomes that if the New Jerusalem and Heaven are one in the same... or at least part of each other, will we live there? 
You could use the John 14:2-3 quote to say "yes, we will" ("In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.")
But you could also say that that is just about heaven now (in the interim phase). We may live in our "room" for a time, possibly before the new heaven and new earth, then we may go on with our own new life. 
Surely we will "serve" Him in the new city.
Rev. 22:3-5 "No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever."

So what do you think? Will we ever really live eternally in Heaven?