Heaven [as you probably perceive it] is not a Christian’s [final] destination! 1 Cor 15:51-54; 1 Thess 4:13-15. (For a fuller exegeses of 1 Thess 4:17, read the meditation “The Testimony” by this author, if you will)
(a) “taken up” is into a higher realm, not omni-directional into space from a round earth that would disperse people away from each other (draw the picture)!
(b) Read further to 1 Thess 5:23 and see that Jesus is Light is Life everlasting! (Jn 1:1-4;3:16; 11:25-26; Rom 8:2,11)
If we aim for “heaven” as our final destination, the question can be asked fairly: Is this bride [church] in it for herself [only], is she primarily concerned and obsessed with where she will live/end up for her own benefit; or is she dedicated to/in a personal relationship with her Bridegroom… to be with Him as a Person… right here right now and consistently in faithfulness, trust and commitment with a deep, sacrificial, genuine and inseparable love for Him alone [over and above and beyond the self]?
The phrase “heaven and earth” is used to indicate the whole universe (Gen 1:1; Jer 23:24; Acts 17:24). According to the Jewish notion there were three heavens,
(a) The firmament, as “fowls of the heaven” (Gen 2:19; 7:3,23; Ps 8:8, etc.), “the eagles of heaven” (Lam 4:19), etc.
(b) The starry heavens (DT 17:3; Jer 8:2; Mat 24:29).
(c) “The heaven of heavens,” or “the third heaven” (Dt 10:14; 1 Ki 8:27; Ps 115:16; 148:4; 2 Cor 12:2). This is where people have been taken up into [spiritually], whilst physically remaining on earth (the apostle Paul in 2 Cor2:12,2,4; Philip in Acts 8:39; the apostle John in Rev 1:2;4:1; Ezekiel in Ez1:1). It is a realm invisible to the five bodily senses, surrounding us (Heb 12:1); but this realm is visible however, by the sixth sense, faith. This heaven you can see opened while right here on earth (Jn 1:50-51; Acts 7:55,56; Heb 2:8-10; 4:12-16).
(d) The “Kingdom of God” corresponds to the “Third heaven”. This “third heaven” is then a “heavenly” realm where we – on earth – can enter a state [status] and so be in a place [position of authority in Christ]. For clarity on this you can connect the following Scriptures: Jn 3:3,20 with Lk 17:20,21; and Eph 1:3,20; 2:6,19 (16-22); 3:10; 2 Tim 4:18 with Heb 3:1 and 12:1; and Rev 11:5. Also, Mt 6:14,26,32; 15:13; 18:35; Lk 11:13; 1 Cor 15:40 with Col 1:13-20,26,27; 2 Cor 4:7; Rev 1:5,6; 5:9,10; (and Rev 21:3 with Jn 14:23-27). Note that Eph 2;19 and Heb 12:1alone clearly reveals the truth that we on earth can be citizen’s of this [third] heaven, the kingdom of God, if we are in Christ (Jn 3:3). Matthew also told us that the veil was rent on Jesus’ cross (Mt 27:50,51) and that we can now [since Heb 9:16-18] directly enter the throne of grace to obtain mercy (Heb 4:16; 10:19-21). Then of course, must you realize that we obtain mercy to live and not to die! See “The Testimony”.
(e) Boundaries unknown yet to us. Is 27:13; Zech 9:14; Mt 24:31 (Mt 17:20; 19:26; Lk 1:37; 18:27)
The people saved (Rom 10:9-10; Acts 4:12) that lose their bodies (die) will have their souls and spirits survive [maintain existence] in heaven until getting a physical body back on earth when Jesus returns. This heaven [invisible realm] is quite possible in our proximity (Heb 12:1) but it seems unlikely that we can be literally observed by those [saved] who are dead and in heaven (or hell, for that matter), because of Jesus’ explanation in Lk 16:19-31 that reveals (a) no contact between the living and the dead, and (b) the notion of the rich Jew in hell asking for Lazarus to be send from heaven to his brothers still (pardon the pun, Rom 10:9) living on earth wherever they were – but this was not allowed (Lk 6:26-31). They did not indicate a specific place as if they were watching those on earths every step and move. Even Heb 11 does not necessarily imply that our champions of faith are literally watching us and cheering us on, the writer merely asks us to imagine them cheering us on – in effect – when we need motivation and maintenance of our endurance in doing what is right. The memories of those old champions serve as motivational examples, it does not mean they are all seated in an auditorium watching down on our every move as if we are running along a track in an arena (for their entertainment?)! This idea probably originated from yet another mixing of the Gospel with worldly ideas, this time from Greek mythology (Gal 1:6-9; 1 Jn 2:4; 2 Tim 4:3-7). The influence [meaning, purpose, value] of the exemplary lives lived by those champions of faith can thus positively influence us in our thinking [persevering, even Heb 11:6], but not by watching over our shoulders as if we can expect a visit or a word from heaven or hell any moment. As God said to Moses in Josh 1:2, “My servant Moses is dead” [to you]. (Acts 4:12; Rom 8:14; Jn 9:28; Lk 9:62…). Refer to the meditation “Visitations to heaven or hell” by this author as well.
Therefore, prayer to anyone else than God merely reveals ignorance in the accomplished work of Jesus Christ and distrust in God! Praying to anyone else for their help (a form of contact with the dead or a request for assistance as if a “good word” from someone you think is closer to God, only show distrust in God’s salvation plan and His redemption in Jesus Christ [God]) – Rom 8:29-39. Just from Scriptures such as Ps 121:1; Phil 4:13; and 1 Tim 2:5; is it clear that we cannot pray to [expect help from] anyone dead, now in heaven but we should/can only pray to [ask help from] our Triune God. Jesus says in Mk 11:24 we can even fully expect a genuine result (Js 1:6-8)! The meditation “Prayer” and “Church Part 2” also discuss this aspect of faith. This idea was probably also adopted by the early church from the Babylonians and later the Greek mythology, namely that there are lesser and higher gods with no direct access to God the One Creator-Father. This also contradicts Heb 4:15-16 (Rev 15:5; Jn 19:30; Mt 11:27-30) and other similar Scriptures.
Grasping the above will help with a clearer understanding of Rev 12:7; Eph 6:12,13 (Rom 13:14). Consider the meditations entitled “Rapture raptured” and “Lucifer” by the author, if you want the usual fear-driven theology cleared up by a possible plain understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
2. Meaning of words in the original
(a) The usual Hebrew word for “heavens” is shamayim, a plural form meaning “heights,” “elevations” (Gen 1:1; 2:1). Consider Heb 12:1. Sure it is “higher” than the natural [carnal, physical], even if they are just undetectable by the five known senses… Perhaps the sixth is faith.
(b) The Hebrew word marom is also used (Ps 68:18; 93:4; 102:19, etc.) as equivalent to shamayim, “high places,” “heights.”
(c) Heb galgal, literally a “wheel,” is rendered “heaven” in Ps 77:18 (R.V., “whirlwind”).
(d) Heb shahak, rendered “sky” (Dt 33:26; Job 37:18; Ps 18:11), plural “clouds” (Job 35:5; 36:28; Ps 68:34, marg. “heavens”), means probably the firmament.
(e) Heb rakia is closely connected with (d), and is rendered “firmamentum” in the Vulgate, whence our “firmament” (Gen 1:6; Dt 33:26; and so on), regarded as a solid expanse.
3. Metaphorical meaning
Is 14:13-14; “doors of heaven” (Ps 78:23); heaven “shut” (1 Ki 8:35); “opened” (Ez 1:1). (See 1 Chron 21:16)
4. Spiritual meaning
The “waiting” place of the righteous; the temporary abode of departed spirits (1 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:51-58).
(a) Christ calls it his “Father’s house” (Jn 14:2, 23-25).
(b) It is called “paradise” (Lk 23:43; 2 Cor 12:4; Rev 2:7).
(c) “The heavenly Jerusalem” (Gal 4:1; 6:18; Heb 12:22; Rev 3:12).
(d) The “kingdom of heaven” (Mt 25:1; Js 2:5).
(e) The “eternal kingdom” (2 Pet 1:11).
(f) The “eternal inheritance” (1 Pet 1:4; Heb 9:15).
(g) The “better country” (Heb 11:14,16; Is 60:14; Mt 5:14).
(h) The blessed are said to “sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” and to be “in Abraham’s bosom” (Lk 16:22; Mt 8:11); to “reign with Christ” (2 Tim 2:12) is here in His kingdom on earth – Eph 2 (Ampl); 1 Pet 2; 1 Jn 4:17 (see the ..on earth….); and so on.
Also consider reading the meditation “The Gospel” by the author that discusses the kingdom on earth as in heaven, which is in and around us (Lk 17:20-21), not behind the planets in space somewhere.
Most teachings advocate that only in heaven the blessedness of the righteous consists in the possession of “life everlasting,” “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:17), an exemption from all sufferings for ever, a deliverance from all evils (2 Cor 5:1-2) and from the society of the wicked (2 Tim 4:18), bliss without termination, the “fullness of joy” for ever (Lk 20:36; 2 Cor 4:16,18; 1 Pet 1:4; 5:10; 1 Jn 3:2). Contemplate, however, the meditation entitled “The Testimony” by the same author and see if Scripture [God] does not perhaps have more in mind for us right here in this – everlasting – life! The believer’s heaven is not only a state of everlasting blessedness, but also a “waiting place”, the place “prepared” for them (Jn 14:2), is not a cubical city floating in space that only has one street, and individual houses for people in glorified bodies [that don’t need shelter] – it makes no sense! A cube is mentioned to possibly imply perfection. That place Jesus prepared was mentioned – by Jesus – further on in verses Jn 23-27! It was so that we can see results on our prayer (Vs 12-18; also Jn 17:15-20). What do you suppose; will you have to pray for in heaven? No, this was Jesus telling them what was about to be paid for and provided on His cross. We are [historically not spiritually] way beyond that cross today – believe Him (v 1-2)! The house of His [“our”, Mt 6:9] Father is the church [the people He lives in by His Spirit], and the “many homes”, “much place”, are the people in whom He dwells! Consider Rev 21:3 and us as His living stones (1 Pet 2:4-10; Eph 1:17-23; 2:4-11,17-22). O, the bliss of seeing the Revelation of Jesus Christ! Consider the meditation entitled “Church” by this author, if you will… Heaven is hardly a place where all saints will sit passively in an eternal boredom and uselessness [laziness, inactivity?]; but rather a spiritual – and physical – place of peace of mind as a “rest”, calm, and trust in the Lord [Truth] right here on earth that He has made for us and dearly prepared for us – Heb 2:8! And this is on this beautiful planet He gave us on which to rule [not to build empires unto ourselves, but rather what Paul expresses in 2 Cor 10:4-18].
Remember that the NT only started – at the soonest – at the cross of Jesus Christ (Heb 9:16-18)! Jesus was ministering and teaching and explaining to OT people what shortly would happen on His cross for a NT Life in Christ and with Christ – permanently – in us! The Old system had fleeting [passing, temporarily] glories only; while the New is supposed to show a lasting glory (2 Cor 3:18). Most people carelessly and superficially shrug this with “we all know that!” but then fail to get out of the ignorant mindsets that this is exactly the point where most of the “denominational” doctrines fall! And all because they preach teachings of Jesus Christ about what would happen at/after His cross and burial as if they must still happen for us! Hence false doctrines of infant baptism, a city floating in space (Jn 14:2 not read up to verses 23-27); and so on… But these subjects are all discussed in the short meditations by this author named by the appropriate subjects. Read them if you will and please correct this author if he is wrong by referring to the Bible and Jesus Christ (Acts 16:7)…
Heaven is not our destination. Jesus is bringing those souls and spirits who have lost their bodies, back to earth, and this is probably where we will rule over our thoughts and all in and on the earth [except other man – Mk 10:42-45; hear Jesus addressing the religious manipulators in Mt 23…], as God obviously has meant for us to function from the beginning. He is Life, so we should live for Him, not die for Him. Jesus died for us so that we can live for Him and be with Him right here (Mt 5:5)!
And yes, as a spirit with a soul in a body! A physical body as His lasting temple right here on earth!
Jesus understood afterlife (Jn 11:25); yet Jesus says His good news is everlasting life (Jn 11:26)!!! The Amplified Bible states 1 Jn 3:24 as follows: “All who keep His commandments [who obey His orders and follows His plan (Jn 9:28!), live and continue to live, to stay and] abide in Him, and He in them (Rom 8:11; Jn 4:24) . [They let Christ be a home to them and they are the home of Christ.] And by this we know and understand and have the proof that He [really] lives and makes His home in us: by the [Holy] Spirit Whom He has given us (Jn 14:23-26; Rom 8:11)!… (Emphasis mine). In other words, the living proof that Jesus lives [after His crucifix and ascension, is [will be] that we can continue to live with Him in us and we in Him – on earth!!! But, God is not a manipulator and allows us to choose our outcome (Rom 8:13; 10:9-10; Jn 11:25; Gal 6:7-8!). This is one reason why we have a temporary arrangement by God’s grace and mercy alone of which one is called “heaven”! Carefully consider again 1 Cor 15:51; 2 Cor 5:3; 1 Thess 4:13-17; 5:23 and please read the meditation called “The Testimony” in www.gospel-truth.co.za…
Peace and grace and joy and 1 Thess 5:23 to you in Jesus’ name!