In Search
of Heaven

By Keith Newman
(From the Soul Searching radio series 1983-92)

"We gamble with our lives on the promise that there's somewhere better to be when the curtain is raised at the end of our days. if we don't live by heaven's laws we gamble again there is no hellish alternative."

WHERE THE HELL IS HEAVEN? Even the church has difficulty talking about heaven in everyday earthly terms.

When we’re young we’re told that if we’re good boys and girls we’ll go to heaven. But fairy tale answers depicting heaven as some mystical otherworldly place where nothing ever goes wrong just don't cut it beyond childhood.

To rational, questioning minds in this supposedly enlightened age, impressions of angels on clouds eternally strumming away on harps will no longer satisfy our curiosity.

And yet the existence of heaven is the living and dying hope of millions around the world. They believe in the after-life and elevation to some form of higher and happier existence. But just what, where, or when is heaven?

If heaven does exist, it’s high time we saw beyond the myth.

The word heaven in Greek has several meanings. It can represent the atmosphere about us, the heavens above us or the spiritual realm where God, the angels and the dear departed live. Perhaps heaven is on another time-space continuum — a kind of parallel existence which can influence this world and be influenced in return.

Maybe our prayers, words and actions are all recorded on some vast memory chip in heaven — perhaps that’s God’s memory which allows him to record all our prayers and requests and respond to them all in due course?

In the Lord’s prayer it says: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven". Most people don’t realise that Jesus is saying heaven can come to earth.

From what I understand, heaven is a place where things get better, a state of being where our wildest dreams can come to pass.

If this heaven is a kingdom, as the Bible says, then there must be a king looking after the welfare and interests of it’s citizens. Without people it wouldn’t be much of a kingdom.

In the phrase: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth...", Jesus is saying, in this highly recommended model for prayer, that God has plans to set up a government on earth.

The ruler is Jesus, and while he hasn’t taken his throne in a physical sense he's already king in that heavenly realm. In fact the Bible says Jesus sits on God's right hand — generally the right hand is symbolic of power and strength, unless of course you are left handed like me.

Those choosing to become citizens of this once and future kingdom are now in training, learning to become better people, how to handle difficulties and how to show love at every challenge. We are ambassadors of the coming Kingdom, each bringing a little slice of heaven to earth in anticipation of that great day.

Erich Fromm in his book The Sane Society written in 1955, had his own cynical view of how some people might perceive heaven. "Modern man, if he dared to be articulate about his concept of heaven, would describe a vision which would look like the biggest department store in the world, showing new things and gadgets, and himself having plenty of money with which to buy them." I wonder how many people subscribe to the supermarket view of heaven?

According to the Old Testament we had our n in the Garden of Eden — the park-like Paradise where humanity and nature existed side-by-side showered with the joy of living and the peace of God. Eden was a place of perfect harmony where the animals were not afraid, where the birds sang in the trees, the rivers ran crystal clear and there was no hate or greed.

God walked in the garden with his two very special creations. Adam and Eve possessed all the supernatural powers we dream of — they were fully in control of their own environment and needed only think a thought and it would be known to the other. Each thought was of love, and simple curiosity about this wonderful planet and the magnificent mysteries of God.

The only trouble was that our planetary parents failed the test. A snare was set by the only other occupant of the planet — a fallen angel called Lucifer who had been cast out of Heaven and exiled on earth. He didn’t like the idea of having his dominion challenged by these newcomers.

Once the trap was sprung the potent mixture of doubt and guilt infected the once pure hearts of Adam and Eve causing such confusion that they fell, like Lucifer before them, from their high heavenly station. Their wonderful powers, the pure spirit knowledge and their mastery over the elements and the animals slipped away.

Paradise — a slice of Heaven on earth — became the kingdom of the Prince of Darkness. The voice of God became distant and unclear and we have been going downhill ever since, so much so that many of us have even forgotten that God can talk to us and still offers us the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.

According to the Bible the world will one day return to an Eden-like state. I don’t know how much the Green revolution, which is concerned with protecting and restoring our environment will help bring this about but it’s got to be part of the solution.

The renewing of our attitudes and personal responsibilities toward our children and each other also has to be part of the challenge .

It’s too easy to be so spiritually minded that we are no earthly use and to be so earthly minded that we are of no use to heaven.

We cannot ignore the poor and the homeless, the sad, the sick and the lonely. No matter who we are whether we have great wealth and property or if we are begging on the streets this three dimensional existence is all too temporary.

We gamble our lives on the promise that there is somewhere better to be when the curtain is raised at the end of our days. If we don’t live by heaven’s laws we gamble again that there is no hellish alternative.

And so we dream of heaven – that idyllic place where all things work together, where miracles are commonplace, where worry and strife are eased away and where tears need no longer flow.

Perhaps if we managed to hold hands with heaven we wouldn’t die but simply float away into a higher state of existence to be with our Creator and put an end to our earthly trials?

Without heaven what hope do any of us really have.

But how can we even expect to gain access to such a kingdom if all the day long we are grumpy, envious, lustful, dishonest, racially proud, violent and refusing to help those around us with obvious needs?

If we’re reaching out to make heaven a real and believable place then our actions will tell. Our lives will show how sincere we are. Our utopian ideals hold no power if all we’re doing is spouting words.

If we reject all heaven stands for how can we expect to receive the good favour of its king?

All those who long for justice and equality and an improvement in social conditions should take heart in the news that there is a new world coming, and the King of that world knows all our needs before we voice them. He will be as close as our own thoughts. Heaven will have come to earth.

The old natural temple build by sweat and labour fulfilled a very real function but it was still a shadow of what was to come. God is now putting the final touches to his earthly residence in which we are the living stones. The mortar which holds it all together is the Master Builder’s unyielding love and our love for one another.

As this new day dawns we will see the glorious unveiling of Christ in the believer. Babylon the anti-type of the new Jerusalem will have been destroyed and an end made to all despotic government and religion.

The new Jerusalem is a place of many mansions prepared for believers – it will be the new Eden. As it was in the beginning so it shall be in the end.

What have you done to bring a little heaven into the world today? It’s never too late to start. What in heaven’s name are you doing?

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