Students at some point will pick your knowledge regarding Heaven. Some of their questions may include: Will we still be married in heaven? We will have physical bodies in heaven? Is heaven really a “place” outside of time and space? Was Jesus’ message solely about Heaven?
The problem: The Scriptures paint such a limited view of Heaven and Heaven seems so abstract. From what I gathered, many of my students are convinced that heaven is not a place and getting into heaven was not Jesus’ only and main point.
First “Heaven” (shamahyim, ouranos) has three meanings:
1. Cosmological: to designate the whole universe, Gen 1:1; Matt 5:18
2. Synonym for God: Luke 15.18, 21. For example Kingdom of Heaven as Matthew refers to it.
3. Abode of God: Matt 6:9; 7:21. Heaven will be our place of dwelling (Jn 14.2-3, 1 Thess 4.17)
There are a few Biblical images of heaven: Heaven as the City, Jerusalem (Rev 21.1-5) and The Garden: Heaven as Paradise
NT Wright refers to heaven as this NEW CREATION, which implies the renewal/transformation of the old. Wright sees heaven as paradise, namely the NEW CREATION and those dead are still asleep. This new creation theology debunks the exhausted old theologies of: escapism, fireproof insurance, and evacuation in order to liberate us as God’s people here, now, and today! Seemingly, there is more to God’s story here and now than patiently waiting until the end times. I think heaven/paradise is the teleos (the end or final) and we as humanity enjoy life to its fullest and the process of becoming God’s people who are freed and restored.
I also believe that heaven/paradise/new creation will have some amazing features: 1. Communion, 2. Presence of God, 3. Vision of God, 4. Removal of all evil and suffering, 5. Absolute Security, and 6. A place of glory. In addition, our task is heaven is to worship, rest, commune, and to be of service.
Internal theological heaven problem: How should youth pastors discuss and talk about heaven to mid to late adolescence? Should we use concrete and absolutes terms? Or should we simply describe Heaven’s amazing features and leave it in this ambiguous state?