Rev. Langerak is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Previous article in this series: October 1, 2009, p. 16.
By parable, the two celestial tutors teach us both the terrestrial immanence and spiritual transcendence of the third heaven. They also make clear that heaven is not simply a state of being, but a most glorious place, and the quality of life enjoyed there is the highest—a supreme blessedness enjoyed already on earth by the Spirit of Christ sent from heaven, and a future glory, when Jesus returns, that eye has not seen, ear heard, or has entered into man’s heart to imagine (I Cor. 2:9).
Heaven is a real place—eternal and abiding, with foundations, pillars, rooms, windows, and door allowing some in and barring others (II Sam. 22:8; John 14:2). But it is more. For those who enter, heaven is home. It is a glorious home divinely decorated with insects and birds, clouds, sun, moon, and stars radiating the perfections of the creator (Ps. 19). More glorious still is life within the sacred house itself, for there dwells the Almighty Father and His beloved Son (again come home) in the Holy Spirit. Its blessedness is the divine family life shared with God’s heavenly household of angelic servants and adopted sons and daughters. Its blessedness is the transcendent communion, comfort, and joy that only life in Father’s home can bring (Eph. 2:19, 3:15). And no miserly parent, He shares the bounties of His home generously. What else explains the vastness of heaven and astounding quantity of its hosts? Heavenly creatures vastly outnumber terrestrial—billions of stars, and angels a 100 million strong (Rev. 5:11). Likewise God’s extended family, a small remnant on earth, are an innumerable throng in heaven. Poor pilgrims here, in heaven they are given an immense, glorious home with blessings immeasurable, for God is their portion (Is. 61:7).
But heaven is more than home, and its inhabitants more than family. It is a kingdom; its residents royalty. Heaven is the Lord’s palace, His throne, capital of a vast empire encompassing the universe (Is. 66:1). Its rule is absolute and now given to Jesus (Matt. 28:18). Showing this openly at the cross when He spoiled powers and principalities, He returned home the conquering King (Col. 2:15). Lucifer, who would exalt himself above heaven, He deported (Rev. 12:8). Sin and death being defeated, His heavenly kingdom can never be destroyed (Dan. 2:44). And being family of the King in whose hearts He is enthroned, its citizens not only benefit from His everlasting, worldwide dominion, but also share in it as the new Jerusalem wherein He dwells (Heb. 11:16; Rev. 20:6).
Especially glorious is the freedom of heaven. Unbounded by earth, its hosts soar in the open firmament, hurtle effortlessly through space, and fly to uttermost regions. So, life in God’s heaven is supremely liberating. Earthly Adam could not have it in Eden. But now the Lord from heaven has come down, we are made free, and when taken to heaven at death, made free perfectly. We are liberated with nothing less than God Himself—freed from earthly care with His strength, from tears with His joy, from darkness with His light, from affliction with His peace, from sin with His righteousness, from death with His life—all of it heavenly. But heaven is not a lawless place. God’s children play in its streets (Zech. 8:5), but in heaven only the Lord does whatsoever He pleases. His ordinances are from heaven; His word is settled there (Ps. 119:89). So birds have their commands, stars their courses, angels their mission, and God’s children their heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1). But our heavenly liberty is this—perfect, willing, and tireless obedience forever. We shall mount up on eagles wings, run and not be weary, walk and never faint (Is. 40:31).
Although it has pillars and foundation, heaven will pass away (Matt. 24:35). Not completely, for the Lord will re-create it. With a difference—having reconciled all things to Himself, God will bring heaven down to be united with earth (Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20). No longer needed, our tutors will give way to the reality. The Lord will shake the heaven, roll it up, and dissolve its hosts, so that with great noise it passes away—as a vesture it shall be changed (Heb. 12:26; Matt. 24:29). Then those whose names are now written there will be gathered from one end of heaven to the other, to receive their inheritance, incorruptible, reserved now in heaven (I Pet. 1:4). The supreme blessings of God’s heavenly home shall come down for His family to enjoy eternally in the earth and in the body. The earthly shall become heavenly. We shall be His people. He shall be our God. God shall be all in all.