Brooke Cooney is a pastor's wife, mother of two, and foster-mom of one. To capture the eternal in the everyday, she blogs about family, faith, and lessons along the journey at ThisTemporaryHome.com.
Heaven, an eternal destination described in the scriptures yet a seeming mystery to man. Even so, the bible teaches that we are to set our minds on it:
Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1)
The Greek word translated "set your hearts on" is zeteo, which "denotes man's general philosophical search or quest." It is a diligent, active, single-minded investigation. So we can understand Paul's admonition in Colossians 3:1 as follows: "Diligently, actively, single-mindedly pursue the things above"--in a word, Heaven. (Randy Alcorn, Heaven, pp. 20-21)
If we are to seek Heaven, why does the Bible seem so vague on what it will look like? Let's consider the following:
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him."
But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God's deep secrets. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
I agree, the scriptures seem a bit vague on what Heaven will look like, but perhaps that is because I have not searched them, studied them. Perhaps I haven't sought Heaven. Additionally, heaven is a place for which the only reference point we have is our present earth.
The Holy Spirit will show us God's deep secrets to the degree our finite time and space bound minds can fathom. With that in mind, join me on a 6 part series seeking to understand Heaven as our eternal home.
First, we need to address the topic of the present heaven and the eternal heaven for these are two different points of reference.
When a Christ-follower dies he or she is immediately in the presence of God. We know this for certain as Paul tells us that to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) Additionally, as Christ spoke to the repentant thief on the cross, "And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Paradise, or the present heaven, is where Christ-followers go when they die prior to the second coming of Christ.
The word paradise comes from the Persian word pairidaeza, meaning "a walled park" or "enclosed garden." It was used to describe the great walled gardens of the Persian king Cyrus's royal palaces. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Greek word for paradise is used to describe the Garden of Eden. Later, because the Jewish belief that God would restore Eden, paradise became the word to describe the eternal state of the righteous, and to a lesser extent, the present Heaven. (Randy Alcorn, Heaven, p. 55)
Could it be that paradise or the present Heaven is the Garden of Eden? Perhaps. But the scriptures simply do not say.
My first question to this idea is, did God rescue Eden from the destruction of the earth during the world-wide flood? Did God take Eden up into heaven to be paradise or the present Heaven? The scriptures do not say this. However the Bible does tell us that Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden so that they would not eat from the tree of life and live forever. (Genesis 3:22-23) In the eternal Heaven man will live forever and Revelation tells us that two trees of life will be used to heal the nations. (Revelation 22:1-5) Thus implying a restored Eden of sorts.
Our God is a master storyteller and only He knows the answer to the question of the Garden of Eden's fate with certainty.
After the final judgment (see Revelation 20:11-15) of all men and their works, God will create a new Heaven and a new earth in which God will make His home among His people.(Revelation 21:3) The New Jerusalem , the holy city, will be God's eternal home to share with His people forever.
In closing, here are some physical descriptions of the eternal Heaven:
Seeking the things above with you,