The Heavenly Perspective
by Rev. Joel L. Getts, Ph.D.
Presented by Saint Luke Evangelical School Of Biblical Studies
http://ficotw.org/school.html

Many years ago, I was caught up in the peak of the Pentecostal- charismatic movement. It was full of high rated motivational sermons and songs about heaven, the return of Christ and "seeing those who have gone on before". Pentecostals and Charismatics are a group of Christians with excellent intentions. Unfortunately, the reality of the potential they proclaim is rarely seen in our current North American culture. There is no doubt that God stirred the emphasis of the Pentecostal movement in the early 1900s to re-inspire a gradually dying Church in North America that was crusting over in formality and ritualism. The reality of the power of God to transform, restore and heal people was greatly suppressed. Ironically, when we look at that the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement's contemporary history of those early 1900's, today it bears very little resemblance, if any at all to what is now the Pentecostal/Charismatic church of our current era. Somewhere in the last seven or eight decades, the movement began to feel threatened and moved more into the realm of attracting the "down and out" of society into what could easily be described as a "heaven on earth" emotionally euphoric environment by the style and evolution of their worship services. The power of God that was so graphically illustrated a few years earlier is now basically buried in the exercise of emotionalism and unrelated hyper activity. While our emotions which are given to us by God and their release are definitely good for us, most Pentecostals and Charismatics have allowed them to replace the experiential power and presence of God in their lives with the potential power and presence of God.

As we progress through this study, we will find that most of the hype about heaven is just that. Very few fundamentals or Pentecostals have peered into the real depth of what and how heaven is truly described to us "in text" through the Bible.

One of the favorite texts that almost all religious Christians use to stir excitement about heaven is a passage that reads, "Eye has not seen, nor ear has not heard the things which God has prepared for those that love Him." The passage is from I Corinthians 2:9 and in reality, is a paraphrased quote from Isaiah 64:4. Most preachers and Sunday School teachers will grab this "little nugget" and run it up and down the streets of gold and bounce it off the jasper walls and through the gates of pearl. When in fact, if this passage was actually read with the entire text it rests in, one would be quick to find out it has nothing to do with heaven. It deals with examining the depth and wisdom of God and His ability to prepare and direct our lives.

The only slight picture we have of heaven as a "physical entity" is given to us by John the author of Revelation in chapter 21. He speaks of jasper walls v.18, and gates, each made of a single pearl v.21, and streets made of gold "like" transparent glass. v.18 & 21. But to understand what John is really seeing you must back up earlier in that same chapter to verse 10. It says, "And he carried me away in the Spirit" and from that point all the physical descriptions dont matter anymore. In the next verse he uses the phrase "was like". What was John experiencing? A vision. In what realm was John translated into? A spiritual realm. What was John seeing? Things that appeared to be physical, even though in the actual original Greek text it is obvious John is grasping to find words that even begin to describe what his "spiritual" eyes are seeing. So, if that is the case, how can this vision of John's be properly defined? A vision is always given to humans, who are encased in mortality, as a physical picture that portrays a spiritual reality. Why? Because at this point in our conscience existence, physical and tangible things are all we know how to relatively describe and connect to. If we are going to have a spiritual experience that we can describe to our fellow human beings, it must have a tangible presence to describe or define it by.

It is evident throughout the entire Bible that God always gave men visions which in fact were physical pictures that portrayed a spiritual reality. Take the example of Ezekiel 37. Here the prophet Ezekiel is taken out in the spiritual realm where God shows him a vision of a valley full of dry bones. When Ezekiel obeys the command of the Lord , he prophecies to the bones and the miraculous transformation of these bones into a massive living breathing army takes place right before his eyes his "spiritual eyes" that is. Then in verses 11-14 the Lord is even gracious enough to explain and interpret the vision for Ezekiel.

This definition of a vision is not a popular definition in most circles of Biblical studies. But, the apostle Paul sets the standard in I Corinthians 15:46-49 when he describes that first a man must dwell in the physical so that he may be able to eventually dwell in the spiritual or heavenly realm. Even though this passage extensively deals with the transition of mortality to immortality, it sets the standard or "measure" by which we see God has set forth as the destiny of man. First comes the physical, and then comes the spiritual. When we interpret visions to be physical pictures of physical realties we go directly against the pattern God has always used in scripture, and even so adequately laid out through the Apostle Paul's writings to the Corinthians. The incorrect way of perceiving Biblically recorded visions as physical pictures of physical realities is why we have such a gross distorted view of Israel as a physical nation in eschatological studies. To say that God would give men visions which relate physical pictures of physical realities is to call God "inconsistent" in His dealings with mankind.

So what is the point of heaven? It is obvious that we have no adequate Biblical description of a "physical" heaven where everyone lives in tranquil harmony on flower strewn streets of transparent gold that are lined with mansions built exactly to our own personal specifications. If heaven is a physical place, it holds no relevancy to the real reason why heaven is heaven. Heaven is a timeless spiritual experience which centers around the focal point of our salvation - Jesus Christ. In Revelation chapters 4 and 5, we find an awesome account of the centrality of Christ in the heavenly realm. In Revelation 4:2 John says he was placed in the spiritual realm, where heaven is. He's not on another planet. Repeatedly John uses the phrases "like a", "like as to", "resembled a" and " like that of a". Again, John is overwhelmed by what he is seeing. He's having a hard time even describing the physical pictures of this vision, because in fact they are spiritual realities.

At one point in Revelation 5:4 he starts weeping. This vision is so real, and yet so indescribable that his emotions are spent. He recognizes the personage of Jesus Christ and immediately refers to Him as the "Lamb". Any practicing Jew, or any Jew who has converted to Christianity, past, present and future, knows the significance of "the Lamb", and also who the ultimate Lamb is. It was the only word John could use that summarily described what he was seeing. But John still stumbles to describe Him. What would a lamb look like with seven horns and seven eyes. It is obvious that this is a "thumbnail sketch" of the beauty and complexity of the personage of Jesus Christ. Here was John, a human physically encased spirit, trying to describe spiritual realities.

The description John gives us of the worship that is taking place in this realm of spirituality is nothing shy of phenomenal. It is continuous and uninhibited. In Revelation 4:8 he states that these events are going on day and night. How did he know that? Was he there for several days and nights? It was because he was in the spiritual realm, and in the spiritual realm there is no time. The clock does not tick in heaven, or even exist in heaven. Heaven doesn't revolve around the sun like our planet earth does. Heaven revolves around the Son of God! The myriad of angels and all created living creatures from both the physical realm, earth, and the spiritual realm heaven, are there continuously and always worshipping the Creator and Redeemer (Revelation 5:11-13).

The whole reason heaven should be a desirable location is because we will be worshipping our Creator and Redeemer, and we will be gazing upon His splendid beauty and presence. This will be the ultimate spiritual experience you will ever be able to have throughout timeless eternity. Right now in my mortal state I have no concept of what that truly encompasses. But, I know someday I will. Jesus will be there, and so will I. Streets of gold, so what. Gates of pearl, I don't care. Walls of jasper, whatever. Jesus will be there unveiled in all His glory, before all those who have put their faith and trust in His salvation! Hallelujah! Amen!

copyright 2000 Rev. Joel L. Getts, Ph.D.
Used by permission.