What is Heaven?
by Nick Bishop
All the major Abrahamic faiths among others have a concept of Heaven – an afterlife as it were, a place we may go to once we have passed from this life. The description of heaven and what you have to do to get there, however, vary, according to these faith traditions. For example, in Islam, it’s not so much about having a personal relationship with the Prophet Mohammed (as we do with Jesus, in Christianity) it’s more about doing good deeds.
On the one hand, the Quran teaches that salvation is based on purification by good deeds (Quran 7:6-9). A Muslim can become righteous through prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and living according to the Quran. Yet the Quran also teaches that Allah has predetermined every person’s destiny, and one’s righteous acts may or may not affect Allah’s decision (Quran 57:22). It teaches that everyone, both the righteous and the unrighteous, will be led into hell by Allah, before the righteous even enter heaven. (Quran 19:67-72). Therefore no Muslim can know his or her eternal destiny in this life. Even Mohammed himself was unsure of his salvation (Quran 31:34, 46:9).
Today, whenever Muslims mention the name of Mohammed, they always add the phrase, “Peace be upon him” because Mohammed’s eternal destiny is uncertain, and the Muslims ask Allah to be merciful to him. This contradiction between the Quran’s teaching of salvation by works and its teaching of Allah predetermining salvation, regardless of one’s works, results in Islam being the world’s most uncertain religion regarding salvation.
In Buddhism, it seems you are reincarnated, many times over, to create good Karma, then you enter heaven. Judaism has different concepts of heaven, according to the different traditions of the faith. Although, the idea of heaven as an actual place where God exists, has influenced both Christianity and later, Islam, from Judaism.
In science, for people like Richard Dawkins or the late Stephen Hawkings, the very concept of a supreme being is persona non-grata. In plain English, the universe and everything in creation came into being by chance. And for people like them, if there is no God, there is certainly no heaven. However, many modern thinkers, including Christian scholars, have the idea that heaven maybe another dimension. As we know, there are four dimensions, breadth, length, height and time. String theory opposes this traditional thinking, saying that actually there are 11 different dimensions, aside from our own. This would allow, theoretically speaking for a place like heaven – another dimension to exist. One eminent Pastor, of New York’s renowned Abyssinian church, goes along with this. This pastor claims to have had visions of what heaven is like. In his words, heaven is “a place of no tears, no suffering. It is eternal joy and happiness because you are one with God”.
Some take the concept of heaven figuratively and say we make our own heaven or hell, whilst we exist in this physical realm. As a metaphor, this may be understood when you look at the lifestyles of the rich compared to the poorest in our society. However, the concept of material richness in this life is at odds with what Jesus taught. Jesus spoke of spiritual richness, and he warned us about material possessions and their hold on us. Materialistic possessions will never satisfy us completely. They are perishable, and soon we get tired of them, moving on to the next fad. Whereas treasure in heaven will not rot or dissatisfy us. That treasure is the treasure of the heart, pure love. This love, if we follow Christ’ teachings, will be more than enough for this life and the next.
The Telegraph newspaper some time ago did a survey in the UK about heaven/life after death. The survey questioned 2,060 people. 53% believed in life after death, 55% believed in heaven, while 70% accepted the notion of the human soul.
This shows that although church attendance may not be at a record high, people are open to the idea of heaven. It behoves us then as Christians and as the church, to communicate our belief in heaven: that trusting and following Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, will lead to that heavenly glory and existence and that the metaphysical existence of heaven is true. Heaven is not a joke, where God sits on a cloud with a long white beard, surrounded by cherubs playing harps. It is a place where the hurts of this life are no more, and we reign with our Lord in peace and harmony forever.
Finally, the Bible has many references to the concept of Heaven:
1 Peter 1:4 “To an inheritance, that is non-perishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you”.
Hebrews 11:10 “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, built by God”.
Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.
John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you”.
God bless you x.
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